Drugs In Sport: De Bruin waits for court verdict

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The Independent Online
THE OLYMPIC swimming champion, Michelle De Bruin, must wait to learn the result of her appeal against a four-year ban for tampering with a urine sample after the Court of Arbitration for Sport finished hearing the Irish swimmer's appeal in Lausanne yesterday.

Yves Fortier, the Canadian chairman of the three-man panel, said the verdict would be issued "in the fullness of time. We appreciate the importance of the case. The ball is now in our court".

The 29-year-old swimmer's lawyer, Peter Lennon, told the court that his client's world had been destroyed by the ban imposed last August by the international swimming federation Fina, which found her guilty of tampering with a urine sample.

"Before these charges, she was an athlete held in high repute," Lennon told the hearing. "Her entire life has been turned upside down." However, the Fina lawyer, Jean-Pierre Morand, said the federation had proved beyond reasonable doubt that De Bruin had manipulated her sample, which was found by a laboratory to contain a lethal level of whisky.

Lennon said the procedure for the test in January of last year at De Bruin's home had been flawed. "The standard of proof has not been met," he said. "There is a reasonable possibility that someone else manipulated the sample." Morand compared the case to shoplifting. If a suspect was apprehended with stolen goods, the onus was on them to at least offer an alternative explanation of how they got there, he said.

He said Lennon had failed to offer any credible theory about who else could have manipulated the sample and how and why they would have done it.

He suggested only De Bruin had both opportunity and motive - to escape detection of a banned substance. "If you manipulate, it is because you have something to hide," he told the court.

Three years before the Atlanta Olympics, De Bruin did not figure in the top 50 in any of the disciplines in which she would later win gold. Her performances took a dramatic turn for the better after the Dutch discus thrower Erik de Bruin, who would later become her husband, took charge of her training.

De Bruin, who served a four-year ban for a doping offence, had never coached a swimmer before. His wife attributed her improvement to better coaching methods and diet.

Yesterday morning, De Bruin's legal team were refused permission to call a scientist who says he opened and re-closed, without detection, the sort of container used in the January 1998 test. The panel ruled Lennon had been too late in his request to call David Brown as a witness.

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