American judo fighter Nick Delpopolo was expelled from the Summer Olympics on Monday following a drug test that found cannabis in his system.
“My positive test was caused by my inadvertent consumption of food that I did not realize had been baked with marijuana,” the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate said in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
According to the statement, the drug-laced food was ingested by Delpopolo before he left for the Olympics.
The 23-year-old athlete, who lives in Amsterdam, returned to the United States Monday night.
A member of Jason Morris Judo Center in Glenville, he trained for the 2012 Games under four-time Olympian and 1992 silver medalist Jason Morris. Morris said he has been in contact with the young judoka via Facebook, but didn’t know many details about what led up to the positive drug test.
“He is definitely, to say the least, unnerved by the situation,” Morris said, noting that Delpopolo trained hard for the Olympics.
If he ingested the drug unknowingly, as claimed, “that’s just really unlucky,” Morris said. “What if he won? That would have been, I guess, even more devastating.”
Delpopolo placed seventh on July 30 in the 73-kilogram class at the London Olympics and tested positive for metabolites of cannabis that same day after competing, according to the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC has stripped him of his accreditation and disqualified him from the 73-kg class.
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement that his group is “absolutely committed to clean competition and stringent anti-doping penalties. Any positive test, for any banned substance, comes with the appropriate consequences, and we absolutely support the disqualification.”
Delpopolo is the first of the 10,500 London Games athletes to fail an in-competition drug test and one of five to test positive for a banned substance since the International Olympic Committee started its London testing program in mid-July. The other four were caught before they competed.
Delpopolo was one of two representatives of the Morris judo center to compete in the Olympics. The other was Kyle Vashkulat, a fellow BH-BL graduate who was eliminated in his opening 100-kg match Aug. 2. Vashkulat, who was born in Ukraine, came to the Capital Region from Pennsylvania to train with Morris as a teenager.
According to Delpopolo’s website, Delpopolo was born Petra Perovic in the republic of Montenegro, in the former Yugoslavia. He was adopted by a family from New Jersey before his second birthday and first moved to the Capital Region to train with Morris when he was 12. After training in Glenville for nearly two years, he returned to New Jersey, then came back at age 17 to again train with Morris.
In his statement, Delpopolo said expulsion from the Olympics will not end his judo career.
“I look forward to representing my country in the future, and will rededicate myself to being the best judo athlete that I can be,” he said.
Morris believes Delpopolo can still have a future in the sport.
“Look at the Michael Phelps [drug scandal]. Everybody wanted to hang him and that was out of competition. I’m not speaking to what Nick did or didn’t do, but just in general, when something happens to an athlete, it can go a couple ways, and a lot of times it can spur them to be greater — improve and improve and improve. … They come through it, fix the errors of their ways, adjust their training and come back and they’re that much more proud and that much more a quality human being,” he said.
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who has won 22 medals over the last three Olympics, was suspended from competition for three months in 2009 after a photograph surfaced of him inhaling marijuana at a party.