Swimmers drug ban to be reviewed

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World swimming's governing body said today it is ready to lift the four-year suspensions given to two swimmers who tested positive for nandrolone, citing new evidence that the steroid could have been present in meat they consumed.

Any roll-back of the suspension could have wider implications for the numerous cases of positive nandrolone findings among elite athletes.

Long-distance swimmers David Mecca-Medina of Spain and Igor Majcen of Slovenia were suspended in August, 1999, by FINA after testing positive for the steroid.

The two subsequenlty lost an appeal against the ban on February 29 in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

The swimmers argued that the positive tests came after they ate meat of uncastrated pigs in a local dish called "sarapatel" before an open-water meet in Brazil.

In a statement today, FINA said lawyers for Mecca-Medina and Majcen offered evidence that recent tests carried out in Belgium showed three volunteers had eaten a meal of boar meat and subsequently showed signs of nandrolone metabolites.

FINA said the results "warrant further examinations which may lead to a review" of the suspensions.

FINA said the lawyers for the two swimmers would file a "revision petition" with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. FINA said if the CAS agreed to review the case the bans would be temporarily lifted.

FINA said the International Olympic Committee's Medical Commission would be asked to conduct further tests.

FINA said it had agreed to the review to "contribute to fair experiments in order ot rmove any possible uncertainties with regar to finds of nandrolone metabolites."

Nandrolone, a common steroid that has been available for decades and is easily detectable in standard urine tests, produced a total of 343 positive cases across all sports last year.

Among the high-profile athletes who have tested positive for nandrolone are former Olympic 100-metre champion Linford Christie, former world 200-metre champion Merlene Ottey and former Olympic 5,000-metre gold medalist Dieter Baumann.

In March, track and field's world governing body announced it would carry out research to determine whether food supplements or herbal preparations can trigger positive tests for nandrolone.