|Former still rings world champion Yuri van Gelder was removed from the Dutch team because of cocaine use, the federation president announced Wednesday. Team manager Hans Gootjes speaks to the press Tuesday night, but said only van Gelder was off the team for "personal" medical reasons.
The Dutch gymnastics federation confirmed Wednesday that it withdrew former world champion Yuri van Gelder from the world championships in Rotterdam because of cocaine use.
Jos Geukers, president of the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Federation (KNGU), said van Gelder was removed from the team after admitting using cocaine again. Van Gelder, the 2005 still rings world champion, recently returned to competition after a one-year ban for testing positive in 2009 for the illegal drug.
On Tuesday, Dutch men's team manager Hans Gootjes announced van Gelder was off the team "for medical reasons of a personal nature." The team manager declined to comment on the medical condition and referred questions to van Gelder's attorney, causing speculation that the gymnast had been caught with cocaine. Van Gelder's attorney also declined comment at his client's request.
The Dutch media responded unkindly to Tuesday's vague announcement, criticizing van Gelder and the federation. One newspaper called the situation "a farce," while another said the situation "demands answers."
Geukers, speaking at a press conference at Rotterdam's Ahoy Arena, apologized for the scandal that had darkened the world championships before the competition even began.
"We deeply regret this situation concerning Yuri van Gelder, the world championships and gymnastics in general," Geukers said. "Unfortunately we must conclude that despite the efforts of everyone involved and Yuri van Gelder himself, there has been an irreparable breach between the KNGU and Yuri van Gelder."
The 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam were supposed to herald the triumphant comeback for the 27-year-old van Gelder, the most successful Dutch gymnast in modern history. He won still rings at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, and later was named the 2005 Dutch Sportsman of the Year. But after multiple European and World Cup titles, van Gelder stunned the gymnastics world in June 2009 when he tested positive at the Dutch championships, also held in Rotterdam.
The KNGU handed van Gelder a one-year suspension, leaving him eligible for the 2010 Worlds but not for the 2012 Olympic Games. (International Olympic Committee rules state that athletes who received suspensions longer than six months are ineligible for the following Olympics.)
Van Gelder called his decision to use cocaine "incredibly stupid," and underwent a three-month drug treatment at a rehabilitation center in Scotland. He returned to World Cup competition last month, winning still rings at the Ghent World Cup in Belgium. A documentary crew spent eight months chronicling his comeback, and the documentary was scheduled to air Wednesday night on Dutch television.
Van Gelder had been one of the host nation's top hopes for a medal in Rotterdam, and stood a good chance of being drug tested. A second positive test for cocaine would have resulted in an automatic lifetime ban, in addition to possible criminal charges from Dutch authorities.
Stay tuned to IG Online for more from the 2010 World Gymnastics Championships in Rotterdam. IG's live commentary begins Saturday with the women's qualification.