By Peter Smith
Turning to sport and the decision to impose a life-ban on the Czech shot-putter Miroslav Menc has been making most of the back-page headlines over the past few days. Menc lost his appeal to the disciplinary committee of the Czech Athletics Federation against his second positive drugs test in two years. The six-member committee refused to accept Menc's explanation that the extraordinary levels of the banned substance norandrosterone found in his body were as a result of tiredness and stress. The committee noted that the amount of norandrosterone - a derivative of the anabolic steroid nandrolone - found in Menc's body was 23 times the accepted limit.
The President of the Czech Athletic Federation, Karel Pilny, expressed his shock at the verdict, saying 'It is unbelievable - I cannot believe that dope was used - I can only say that it was found in his body.' Pilny also commented that a get-tough stance against athletes using drugs was unlikely to effectively tackle the problem in the country. Menc himself called the committee's verdict 'ridiculous' and said he planned to appeal.
Turning to football, and despite the Tomas Repka's failure to show up for international duty this week, the Czech Republic still ran out emphatic 5-0 winners over South Korea in Drnovice on Wednesday evening. Star of the show was Miroslav Baranek, who made a triumphant return to the national team, by coming on as a substitute in the second half, and banging in a hat trick. Captain Pavel Nedved got the scoring underway in the 30th minute after a neat move involving Jan Koller, Tomas Rosicky and the young striker Milan Baros.
Baranek replaced Rosicky in the 65th minute and scored with his first touch of the ball after the World Cup co-hosts had failed to clear their lines. Another substitute, Vratislav Lokvenc nodded in a corner for the third, before Baranek grabbed his second - headed home a Roman Tyce corner in the 86th minute. At the death, Baranek completed his hat trick by converting from the penalty spot after Ludek Straceny had been hacked down in the box.