Cuba still seething after PanAm Games controversies
HAVANA (Reuters) -- Cuba on Monday celebrated its second place in the
Pan American Games' final medal tally, but was still seething at an alleged
"dirty tricks" campaign against its athletes during the tournament in Canada.
In comments full of patriotic expressions and bellicose language, Cuban
officials and state media hailed the athletes's achievements despite the
"knavery" against them.
State newspaper Trabajadores (Workers), the only daily to circulate
Monday, said Cuban sportsmen had not faced such "provocations,
obstacles, aggressions, lies and tricks" since the 1966 Central American
Games in Puerto Rico when its athletes had to travel by boat to circumvent a
U.S. visa ban.
"However, despite the maneuvers, the Cuban delegation returns with
resounding sports' and moral victories," the newspaper said.
A Caribbean island of just 11 million inhabitants, Cuba took second place
the final medal tally with 69 golds -- beating all other nations except the
While the U.S. athletes reaped 106 golds, host nation Canada came third
with 64, and the large South American nations Brazil and Argentina were a
distant fourth and fifth with 25 gold medals each.
Cuba's sporting achievements in Winnipeg were, however, frequently
upstaged by controversy -- ranging from the desertion of several athletes,
and positive doping tests for three, to harassment by foreign media and
talent-scouts, and claims of rule-twisting to hurt the island's chances.
Even Cuba's President Fidel Castro joined the fray, risking a diplomatic
incident with Ottawa by saying he had never seen "so much trickery and
dirtiness" as that being allowed by Canadian organizers of the tournament.
The events have had a huge political impact in Cuba, where its athletes
seen as symbols of national pride, as well as ambassadors of the island's
socialist sports' system and the Castro government itself.
Particularly hurtful to Cuba was the stripping of world record high-jumper
Javier Sotomayor's gold medal after cocaine was found in his urine.
Sotomayor, and Cuba, have vigorously denied the charge, even suggesting
the CIA or anti-Castro Cuban exile groups in the United States may have
spiked his food.
The Cuban state sports' institute INDER was less definitive, however, about
weightlifters Rolando Delgado Nunez and William Vargas Trujillo, who were
both stripped of their gold medals Sunday after testing positive for
INDER president Humberto Rodriguez promised Monday a swift inquiry to
establish if it was "another trick against our country" or, if proved, "the cause
of that, and the responsibility the trainer, doctor or athlete may bear."
As is customary in Cuba, there was no official mention of the defections.
Sports' fans on the street, however, knew all the details via foreign news
stations they tune into illegally.
Sotomayor, 31, whose career would likely be over if a two-year ban from
foreign competition is ratified after the doping, sent a letter to the Cuban
people over the weekend thanking them for their solidarity with his case.
"I have always felt the warmth of my people, but never as close and as
unanimous at a time so necessary for me when I feel a victim of a maneuver,
a trick so unworthy for my image as a sportsman, for my image in the eyes
of the people, for my image as a revolutionary."
Sotomayor, an idol in Cuba, added that he still planned to compete in the
upcoming world athletics' championship in Seville, Spain, as no ban had yet
been pronounced against him.