Germany lifts Leipold drug ban

German freestyle wrestler Alexander Leipold, stripped of his Olympic gold medal for failing a drug test, was cleared Friday to compete again in Germany.

A legal panel of the German wrestling federation cleared Leipold because the organization had violated its regulations in suspending him for two years.

Leipold was suspended Oct. 18 by the federation, but the news of his positive test for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone was announced Oct. 3, a violation of the federation rule that action had to be taken within seven days.

Leipold will wrestle again Saturday with his club, VfK Schifferstadt, in the quarter-finals of the German team championships.

The federation, which has seven days to appeal the panel's decision, fears repercussions from FILA, wrestling's world governing body, which banned Leipold for two years from competing internationally.

"We won't let this happen, we'll appeal," federation head Helmuth Pauli said. "Our national Olympic Committee will support us.

"As president, I can't approve of this ruling, because we have to expect sanctions from FILA."

The International Olympic Committee stripped Leipold of his gold medal and awarded it to American Brandon Slay, who Leopold beat in the final of the 76-kilogram division in Sydney.

Rival German teams are reacting angrily to the clearing of Leipold.

"We will only compete under protest," said Karl Brotkorb, an official of KSV Witten. "This is plainly distorting the competition."

The ruling won't affect FILA's ban on Leipold competing internationally.

He is trying to get that suspension lifted by Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport and has a hearing in April.