Athletics: Mitchell to contest dope verdict

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The Independent Online
DENNIS MITCHELL, the American sprinter, yesterday pledged to fight the two-year drug suspension handed to him by the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

"This is the blackest mark that any athlete can have on their record," Mitchell said at a news conference. "I have done nothing wrong, but I am not being permitted to compete. I will now proceed through the hearing process. I can only hope that justice will prevail and I will be rightfully exonerated."

Mitchell, 32, has requested a hearing before the USA Track and Field Doping Hearing Board. Were the panel to find the athlete not guilty, they would have the power to overturn the current suspension by a majority vote, thus freeing Mitchell to compete again.

Mitchell received the suspension after testing positive for testosterone at an out-of-competition sample on 1 April, but the 1992 Olympic 100m bronze medallist insists he is innocent. "This is both morally and ethically unacceptable to me," he said. "I have, throughout my career, thought that the only way to succeed was through hard work and dedication to yourself and God. I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen to me."

Suja Thomas, Mitchell's lawyer, said that the disgraced athlete would contest the validity of the test on two grounds.

"Experts will firstly look at whether or not the test itself was correct," Thomas said of the two urine samples. "And, secondly, if the test was correct, what could have caused the testosterone to epitestosterone [another natural substance] level to increase [above the allowable ratio of 6:1]."

Ironically, as president of the USATF's Athletes Advisory Committee - the athletes' voice in the governing body - Mitchell has often appeared an outspoken advocate of keeping drugs out of his sport.

"The things that have happened to me in the last few months will forever affect all parts of my life," he said. "This can never be taken away."