Drugs in Sport: Fibbens fears two-year ban after failing test for cocaine

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THE BRITISH swimmer Mike Fibbens is determined to compete in his fourth consecutive Olympic Games in Sydney in the year 2000, despite being suspended after a positive drug test for a banned stimulant.

The 29-year-old Fibbens, who is the British record holder over 100 metres freestyle short course, was tested at the British round of the World Cup competitions in Sheffield last month. The A sample of the test showed the swimmer to have taken benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, according to Fina, the sport's world governing body. It is the first British positive test in swimming since Andy Gray in 1982.

Fibbens is under legal advice not to comment about the specifics of his case but said: "I have every confidence in the testing procedures in this country and will go to the testing of the B sample next week. If the two samples are the same, we will decide then how we will approach the hearing where I am sure I will be dealt with fairly by Fina."

There is no precedent for Fina to follow in this case and Fibbens' greatest fear is of receiving the maximum two-year ban.

"I have had 12 years of drug-free international competition and I just don't want it to end like this," he said. "I am one of the few swimmers at the top level who are proving that this is a sport for adults who can keep improving into their late twenties and early thirties. That is a great motivation for younger swimmers."

Critical in the past of restrictive curfews at major events, Fibbens latterly has become a model of the new swimming professional. He thrives on training and competing abroad and his outstanding form this year is indicative of the new opportunities to do exactly that, financed by money from the National Lottery. A two-year ban would be certain to cut off this form of finance.

A reduced sentence would take away the opportunity to add to his seven Commonwealth Games medals. But worse for Fibbens, is that a two- year ban would almost certainly deny him the chance to repeat Suki Brownsdon's feat of being the only swimmer to have competed in four consecutive Olympic Games. Consequently, Fibbens' commercial value to sponsors would be greatly enhanced.