PHOENIX - Diana Taurasi says she is a tougher person for her experience with the doping authorities in Turkey and doesn't worry that the situation there will affect her reputation.
"The only thing I'm guilty of," she said, "is putting a lot of hours in the gym, and I've been doing that since I was a little kid."
The two-time Olympic gold medalist, 2009 WNBA most valuable player, and former college basketball player of the year spoke Monday at the Phoenix Mercury media day.
Late last year, while playing professional basketball in Turkey, Taurasi was told by authorities there she had tested positive for the banned stimulant modafanil. In February, the Turkish basketball federation cleared her of wrongdoing after the lab that conducted the test retracted its report.
"It toughens you up," she said of the experience, "and life's about going through stuff that is really hard. You can let it really wreck you, and you can be mad at it, which I was for a while. But I finally got over it, had a really good group of people around me here in Phoenix, my family, my close friends, my teammates, the fans here in Phoenix. You really sometimes have to depend on those people to get you through tough times, and they did. They got me through it."
Taurasi said she has no concerns about her reputation being sullied. "Because I know I never took it," she said.
Now she is looking forward to the 2012 London Olympics, which for those few difficult weeks had seemed to be an opportunity that would be lost.
"That was one of the things that was probably killing me the most," she said. "The Olympic team is something I've done for a long time. The culture we're in there, it's something that's very special to be a part of. Knowing that was in jeopardy was probably one of the hardest things."
Taurasi had played five seasons in Russia before signing last year with the Turkish club Fenerbahce, which terminated her contract after her reported positive drug test. Now she has decided to go back to Turkey, albeit with a different club, Galatasaray. Why go back to Turkey?
"It's a question that I'll probably get a lot," Taurasi said. "But it's something that's not going to scare me from playing anywhere in the world, because it really could happen anywhere. It's not the country of Turkey, it's not their federation. It was a mistake one lab made. That's not going to scare me."
Fenerbahce has threatened legal action against the lab. So has Taurasi.
"We're in the preliminary steps of going a little bit further with it," she said.
Mercury teammate Penny Taylor left Fenerbahce shortly after Taurasi's contract was terminated.
"For me personally it didn't feel like the right place to be at that time," Taylor said on Monday, "and I also took the opportunity to go home and visit family and spend time with my mother, who's not well. So it was a mixture of things, but definitely it didn't feel right to be there after what had been going on."
Taylor said she was in disbelief when she first heard of Taurasi's positive test.
"It was shocking and false and what I knew all along," Taylor said. "It's just great that everyone now knows that."
Taylor plans to go back to Turkey, too, and play for Fenerbahce.
Taurasi called the period between learning about the positive test and being cleared "one of the most stressful times in my life."
"I really didn't know what to think, how it was going to turn out. I really had no clue," she said.
Taurasi talked with her agent and attorneys and arranged to fly in independent lab technicians. In the end, she said, the lab just made a big mistake.
"Basically, it was bad chemistry," she said. "They didn't do the test right. They didn't follow procedures. I wish I could explain to you the chemistry, but I'm a sociology major."
Skip Mosturoglu, a member of Fenerbahce's executive board, has said the Ankara-based lab had accepted its mistake only after an international drug-testing expert looking into the Taurasi case pointed out the lab's error. The World Anti-Doping Agency suspended the lab for three months in 2009 for failing to meet international standards.