Road To The Olympic Games

Gymnast Morgan Hamm warned for doping violation

U.S. gymnast Morgan Hamm, who was selected for his third Olympic team last month, received a warning Thursday for getting a prescribed anti-inflammatory shot without the proper clearance from anti-doping authorities.

U.S. gymnast Morgan Hamm, who was selected for his third Olympic team last month, received a warning Thursday for getting a prescribed anti-inflammatory shot without the proper clearance from anti-doping authorities.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Hamm tested positive May 24 at the U.S. gymnastics championships for a glucocorticosteroid, a cortisone-like drug that is only allowed during competitions with an exemption. Hamm said he received the shot May 2 for pain and inflammation in his left ankle, which he first injured last August.

"It was an innocent mistake," Hamm said. "You always need to get the forms, that's the most important thing, and that's my failure." Hamm accepted the warning for his first doping violation, and his results from the May 24 competition at nationals were thrown out. Results from that day, as well as the first day of nationals and two days of Olympic trials, were used to help determine the U.S. team for Beijing.

'Next best steps'

"We are investigating the statement from USADA, and we will work with USADA, the USOC and Morgan to determine the next best steps," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics.

Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said, "So long as the proper documentation is provided to USADA, this will not be a problem going forward."

Hamm's coach, Miles Avery, said he hoped Hamm's results would speak for themselves.

Hamm had the second-highest score on high bar after four days of competition at nationals and trials, and was fourth on floor, pommel horse and vault.

"Morgan is good enough and has earned a position on the Olympic team," Avery said. "If not for forgetting to fill out a form, we wouldn't even be talking about this today."

The anti-inflammatory Hamm took is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited substances, but athletes can take it before a competition if there is a medical need for it and if they receive an exemption. Hamm said he was given the drug by his doctor, Mark Triffon, after taping, ultrasound and other therapies didn't reduce the pain and swelling in his ankle, but failed to ask for the therapeutic use exemption.

'Fair decision'

Hamm said he didn't realize he needed the exemption. Avery said he was aware an exemption was needed but failed to remind Hamm.

Hamm took full blame for the error and called the warning, the least of USADA's punishments, "a fair decision."

"It's a mistake I shouldn't have made," he said. "I'm paying for that mistake."

Hamm was notified of the doping violation a few days after he returned from the Olympic trials in Philadelphia, where he and twin brother Paul were named to the U.S. squad for the Beijing Games.

"At first it was just shock. I couldn't even think of anything I had done that would result in a positive test," said Hamm, who added Advil is the only anti-inflammatory he normally takes.

When Hamm realized it was the shot that had caused the positive, he sent USADA his medical records, as well as letters from his doctor and physical therapist.