LONDON—An American judo fighter was expelled from the Olympics on Monday after failing a drug test, the first U.S. athlete to be sanctioned by Games officials for doping and the fifth competitor overall during the Games period.
Nicholas Delpopolo during the men's 73-kilogram judo contest on July 30.
Several additional athletes, including a Moldovan track athlete, have been expelled by their countries' national organizing committees for doping but aren't included in the official Games count of positive tests.
The U.S. competitor, Nicholas Delpopolo, tested positive for marijuana. In a statement to the U.S. Olympic Committee, Delpopolo said that the result was "caused by his inadvertent consumption of food (prior to his leaving for the London Olympic Games) that he did not realize had been baked with marijuana," according to documents released by the International Olympic Committee following a hearing with the athlete.
He also said in the statement that he was embarrassed by the mistake and apologized to the USOC, his teammates and fans.
Delpopolo had placed seventh at a 73-kilogram judo event last Monday. He is the only one of the banned athletes who actually competed in an Olympic event before being expelled.
On Saturday, Russian sprinter and cyclist Victoria Baranova was banned from the Games and a Colombian sprinter, Diego Palomeque Echavarria, was provisionally suspended after testing positive for testosterone.
The London Games have been touted as the most drug-tested Olympics in history, as officials continue to try and crack down on doping. The IOC said Monday it had conducted 3,486 drug tests so far, out of the roughly 5,000 it expects to conduct during the Games.
The top five finishers in each competition plus two random competitors are automatically drug-tested. In addition, the IOC is at liberty to test around the clock any athletes it wishes, and is also conducting targeted tests on athletes whom it suspects of doping, based on intelligence.
Samples from the Olympics will be stored and potentially can be retested for up to eight years when new tests become available.
The 23-year-old Delpopolo was born in Montenegro and spent the first years of his life in an orphanage there. He was adopted by a New Jersey couple and raised in the U.S.
In high school, Delpopolo "began making poor choices and was gaining a reputation of a 'bad boy'," according to his website, nickdelpopolo.com. "He was caught smoking cigarettes and began hanging out with a bad crowd." Delpopolo credits judo with helping turn his life around.
Entering the Olympics in the 73-kilogram competition, Delpopolo was considered a possible medal contender for the U.S.
Based on his fiery demeanor at the competition last week, Delpopolo seemed like an unlikely candidate to be disqualified for using marijuana.
The 5-foot-8-inch, 161-pound fighter won his first two rounds last Monday, beating judoka from Hong Kong and Belgium. Delpopolo was intense off the mat, too, giving gruff, monosyllabic answers to a series of questions from a reporter between bouts.
Other Olympic judo fighters described him as intense but friendly.
Last Monday, when he lost in the quarterfinals to a South Korean athlete, based on a vote by three referees, he fell to the mat and covered his face in his hands.
"Cheats can never rest," said Mark Adams, a spokesman for the IOC. "The war on doping is a war [in which] we can never declare total victory, it would be like saying can we stop all cheating or crime in the world. But are we doing everything to catch and deter cheats? Absolutely. Are we winning the battle if not the war? You bet."
—Cassell Bryan-Low contributed to this article.
It's that last paragraph which has me busting out laughing. I mean... Come ON! The dude entered competition with a virtual handicap, and still managed to do well.
I grew up in the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll generation. Now I work for The Man so I can pay my mortgage and my sons one day will loaf in college on my dough. It's all fine and good to talk about how harmless pot may or may not be. But for my friends out there who offer - and god knows I love you all - you know I always say no. I never know when I'm going to be drug tested, and the result of that test is going to affect my ability to be employed.
This was majorly stupid on someone's part. All that time and work gone down the toilet along with a high that in retrospect probably wasn't worth it. What a shame.