Johannesburg - Jean-Pierre van Zyl, South Africa's top cycling sprinter and a medal hope at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, has been suspended until May next year after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.

Van Zyl, known as "JP", is on the National Olympic Committee's Operation Excellence squad which is being sponsored to train full-time in the build-up to Sydney 2000.

The South African Cycling Federation announced on Thursday that he was suspended from November 4 to May 3 2000 after testing positive for the banned substance Testosterone/Epitestsotrone.

ICU officials tested Van Zyl during out-of-season training at Emmanus PA in America in July.

"It's hugely disappointing to have to announce this," said SA Cycling Federation president Raoul de Villiers on Thursday.

"But JP has tested positive which was confirmed today and the suspension given after a hearing before Dr Carel de Ridder, Callie Cillie and Professor J Barnard."

De Villiers said that Van Zyl was also fined R2000.

Although Van Zyl will be allowed to compete after May 2000, he stands to lose his place on the Nocsa Operation Excellence squad and may well have damaged his chances of competing in Sydney. - Sapa