IAAF: There's no evidence to maintain suspension
JAMAICAN SPRINTER, Merlene Ottey, who was banned after failing a drugs test last year, has been cleared of any doping offences by an International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) arbitration panel.
The panel, which consisted of chairman Christoph Vedder from Germany, Judge Kevin Murphy from the United States and Monty Hacker from South Africa, ruled yesterday that "there were not any grounds to maintain her suspension from competition" and ended it with immediate effect.
The IAAF said in a statement that the arbitration panel "considered that the testing laboratory had not taken into sufficient account factors regarding the specific gravity of the sample which as a result did not exceed the IOC recommended reporting threshold".
Adrian Wallace, president of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA), made the announcement to the local media at the Grace Kennedy head offices, downtown Kingston. Mr. Wallace, who is also a director of Grace Kennedy, expressed great pleasure with the panel's acquittal of the local idol.
"From the JAAA's point of view we are very pleased," Mr. Wallace said. "We are pleased not only because we were able to support our athlete this way."
Mr. Wallace said he was often called by the local media regarding the case but could not reveal much. "It was information which I could not give because the negotiation was so delicate because with technology the way it is once you say something it goes all over the world."
He said that the fight to get resources to assist in fighting Ottey's case was not easy as people within the sporting fraternity and in the business sector felt that what the body was doing was wrong.
"Even when we tried to get money to finance our going overseas we ran into problems and as I speak the JAAA is out of pocket for some serious money because we stuck our necks out because when we looked at what the IAAF were doing we saw that they were putting together a team of QCs not only their attorney but they went to England to get a top QC because they were going the full distance."
Armed with this knowledge, the JAAA decided to get a top QC, Charles Flint from England which cost a "massive figure". Flint was a key figure who represented British middle distance runner Diane Modahl who was cleared of drug use.
Mr. Wallace said that the government was one of his organisation's primary supporters and it was with its help that they managed to secure the services of Flint. He said Dr. Lloyd Barnett also gave up a high profile case in the Turks and Caicos to attend the arbitration hearing free of cost.
In addition to Dr. Barnett, Ottey's defence team consisted of her personal lawyer Dr. Stephan Netzle and two scientists, Dr. John Honour who attended the local hearing in Jamaica and a new member, Dr. Simon Davis, who lead the arguments regarding the handling of the urine.
The winner of 34 medals in major international championships, including seven in the Olympics and a record 14 in world championships, tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone after a meeting in the Swiss city of Lucerne last July.
But Ottey has denied ever knowingly taking the drug and set out to clear her name so that she could compete in her final Olympics at the age of 40. She saw yesterday's clearance as confirmation of her innocence.
"I am very relieved and happy about this ruling. It confirms my innocence once again," read part of a message from Ottey to the JAAA.
It continued: "It has been a difficult and emotionally draining time for me. However, I have been training well in preparation for the Olympic Games in Sydney and I am looking forward to my first competition. I would like to thank my defence team and all the people around the world and at home in Jamaica who have supported me during this difficult time."
Ottey was cleared by the Jamaican Athletics Federation but the IAAF, athletics' governing body, was not satisfied with the decision and decided to refer the case to its arbitration panel. She appeared before the panel at the IAAF'S Monaco headquarters last month.
Ottey's was the first of a recent rash of positive tests involving nandrolone to be dealt with by the IAAF.
Former Olympic 100 metres champion Linford Christie will have to wait at least three weeks to have his positive drugs test considered by the panel.
It was due to meet this week to consider the case of Christie and two other Britons, European 200 metres champion Doug Walker and 400 metres hurdler Gary Cadogan.