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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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July 24, 2008 11:17 PM

UPDATES: Hardy's dope test leaves questions swirling in the wake

Posted by Ron Judd

More questions than answers swirl around the reported positive doping test of breaststroker/freestyler Jessica Hardy, who, according to media reports using unnamed sources, tested positive for a stimulant, the asthma medication clenbuterol, at the U.S. Swimming Trials July 4.

Hardy, who won the 100-meter breaststroke, finished second in the 50 meter freestyle and grabbed a fourth-place 100 freestyle relay spot, hasn't been suspended, and no official notice of a doping violation has been issued. But her attorney and other sources confirmed the positive test to nbcolympics.com, saying Hardy disputes the result and plans to appeal.

The New York Times, also quoting an unnamed source, reports that Hardy's positive test came between clean tests administered earlier and later at the same Trials. That was confirmed today in a statement by Hardy's coach, Dave Salo, of USC.

Numerous reports that the substance in question was clenbuterol were confirmed Thursday by Hardy's attorney. The drug is not currently approved for human use in the United States, but reportedly is used by body builders, athletes and dieters. It is believed to improve aerobic capacity, increase strength, and perhaps help shed fat. A handful of prominent athletes, including former Seattle Mariner David Segui, have been linked to the substance.

In his statement Salo speculated that Hardy might have ingested the substance accidentally, through a nutritional supplement -- something he advises his athletes not to use, he said, because "the supplement industry runs unabated without any controls."

Hardy, he said, "has come by her results with honest committed hard work."

It's unclear what impact a potential departure of Hardy, 21, will have on Olympic prospects for the U.S. swim team. A aypical penalty after appeals are exhausted in these cases is a two-year ban. Some sources have indicated that it's too late to sub third-place Trials finishers onto the team, because the deadline to do so was Monday.

If that proves to be the case, Hardy's events likely would be swum by other athletes already on the team, such as training mate Rebecca Soni, in the case of the 100 breaststroke. But USA Swimming rules apparently provide an avenue for that body to petition the U.S. and International Olympic Commitees to replace a swim team member even after the submission of names.

That decision, of course, would be of intense interest to Bremerton breaststroker Tara Kirk, who finished third in the 100 breaststroke -- a mere hundredth of a second behind Megan Jendrick of Tacoma. If Hardy was disqualified, Jendrick would be declared the winner of that race, with Kirk moving up to second. But Kirk's coach, Lea Mauer of Stanford, suggested to the San Jose Mercury News that being named to the squad at this late date would be a longshot.

"It's still possible, but it is an arduous fight," she told the newspaper.

Kirk, who has been licking her substantial wounds on a trip to Ireland since the Trials, presumably has not been training. All swimmers named to the Olympic team proceeded immediately to a training camp in Palo Alto, Calif. at the conclusion of the Trials July 6. They're scheduled to fly together to another camp in Singapore on Friday. The AP reported yesterday that Hardy had left the Palo Alto camp, and teammates were informed of the positive doping test in a meeting . It's unclear whether she's been bumped from the flight to Asia pending outcome of her appeal.

Hardy has the right to appeal her positive test to an arbitration panel, and then to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The big question raised by this bit of extremely bad timing is about the testing process itself, particularly its timeline. Specifically: How can the USOC fail to allow time for doping questions to be raised and answered satisfactorily before names of Olympians must be submitted to the IOC? If Hardy is bounced and cannot be replaced, it's a blow to the U.S. swim team, particularly because Hardy was entered in multiple events. While other swimmers can take her spot in individual events, the team has one less swimmer for relays, placing it a substantial disadvantage.

And then this question: A decision not to make an eleventh-hour replacement of an athlete, such as Kirk, who hasn't been training, might be a sound one for strategic purposes. But how does the USOC, USA Swimming and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency explain to Kirk that she really finished second, but still doesn't get to go to the Olympics?

All of it, of course, is conjecture until more is known about Hardy's doping test, and until the appeals process is allowed to run its course. And at this point, for obvious reasons, nobody is talking.

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www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.