SWIMNEWS ONLINE: March 1996 Magazine Articles

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Backwash features short clips, gossip, letters and opinions. Contributions are welcome. Now for the rumours behind the news.

SANCTIONS LIFTED Barely ten days after receiving a two-year suspension from the U.S. Swimming Federation, Jessica Foschi was allowed back in the water.

Foschi tested positive for steroids at the U.S. Nationals last August and was put on probation until her federation voted to uphold FINA rules and suspend her. When FINA announced that Australian star Samantha Riley would receive no suspension at all for her positive test for a narcotic analgesic in December, U.S. Swimming saw fit to apply the same leniency and rescinded the ban on Foschi. The controversial decision allowed her to compete at the U.S. Trials this month (where, lucky for US Swimming, she failed to qualify for Atlanta) before FINA itself had a chance to approve the decision.

In the same vein, Finnish swimmer Petteri Lehtinen had his two-year suspension lifted on February 14. Lehtinen tested positive for salbutamol last March and claimed that the drug was authorized for his asthma.

LOVE...CONNECTIONS...CONQUER ALL Another little twist in the Riley affair is her recently revealed love affair with Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss.

Probably best known for his triple gold medal performance at the Lillehammer Olympics in '94, Koss visited Australia last year as an ambassador for UNICEF and managed to bump into Riley. The ensuing romance has blossomed and, from there on, concerns no one other than the two involved.

Of interest, however, are Koss' attentions during Riley's recent positive drug test upheaval. Not only did he fly to her side upon hearing of the news, but it seems that he is on speaking terms with one Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee. A couple of well-timed phone calls to convince Samaranch of Riley's innocence and, well, FINA didn't stand a chance of making their own decision on the matter. The IOC apparently put in more than their two cents worth...talk about a little help from your friends.

In the past six weeks of Riley's ordeal Koss has made no less than three trips to Australia to give Riley a shoulder to lean on. Broad shoulders indeed.

VOLKERS APPEALS SANCTIONS After receiving a two-year suspension from FINA banning him from international competitions for his part in Samantha Riley's positive drug test, Australian coach Scott Volkers is appealing the decision.

Supported 100 per cent by Riley and her teammates, Volkers plans to be in Atlanta.

VESTERGAARD IN CALGARY The news that Danish individual medley star Britta Vestergaard spent time training at the national high-performance center in Calgary prior to the World Short Course Championships in Rio de Janeiro was met with some reserve. While Dave Johnson, head of High Performance Services, said that Vestergaard's presence at the centre was a "win-win situation," several coaches were scratching their heads wondering why a Swimming/Natation Canada funded operation was training the competition.

It was postulated that foreign swimmers were being allowed into the centre because homegrown athletes were lacking. Vestergaard, who finished a close third in the 400 IM behind Canadians Joanne Malar and Nancy Sweetnam, took advantage of the centre's facilities for several weeks, apparently paying her living expenses.

Johnson claimed, and it was news to most, that a small number of foreign athletes will be allowed to train at the centre provided they meet certain conditions; they must be a positive addition to the training group and be ranked in the top eight in the world in their specialty. In addition to living expenses, they must pay $150 to the centre.

Of note is simply the fact that Johnson considers foreign athletes training in Canada a good thing, but when it comes to Canadian athletes looking for a positive training environment abroad or more usually in the U.S., opposition from SNC is quite fierce.

COURT CLEARS CHAGNAUD After serving 14 months of her two-year suspension for a positive test for etilefrine in January 1995, French open water swimmer Anne Chagnaud had her name cleared by the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne on March 12, 1996. It was a predictable outcome given the leniency shown to Australian Samantha Riley in her doping upset merely weeks before.

Chagnaud took her case to Lausanne as a last resort after FINA denied her appeal late last year. Another case of "inadvertent" doping. Chagnaud was given the banned substance by her coach in the middle of an open water marathon in Tapes, Brazil. Her coach, Philippe Le Dily, admits to having mistakenly given her the wrong pill, although Chagnaud claims it was an act of vengeance and the circumstances are certainly against him.

Chagnaud commented that despite the fact that the court has finally recognized her innocence, the damage to her image is irreparable. "It's incredible that I had to go this far I feel that FINA could have taken care of the whole thing months ago." The French Federation had upheld her innocence following a disciplinary hearing last July.

Her resolve renewed, she plans to take up training immediately.

Undoubtedly the results of the cases of Riley, Foschi, and now Chagnaud will make for difficult proceeding the next time someone's urine test is positive.

EDITOR: For the past four years I have greatly anticipated the advent of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Although I have been a swimmer for most of my life, my goal for this summer is not to compete for my country. Insteadm I want to write about the Olympic experience as an observer.

My dream has been thwarted by a decision of the Canadian Olympic Association (COA), organisers of the Olympic Youth Camp. Applicants for this prestigious honour are now required to be between 16 and 18 years of age. I am 21. This decision is not only a tremendous disappointment, but I also feel I have been robbed of a once in a lifetime opportunity. A swimmers friend of mine travelled to Barcelona in 1992 as part of the Youth program, and still pseaks incessantly of his adventure (much to my annoyance).

I am very concerned with women in sport and am often angered by the massive discrepancy of media coverage for men and women athletes. My interest is two-fold: I am a former female athlete and I am aspiring to become a journalist. I feel that great stories necessitate first hand observation.

Given the opportunity to go to Atlanta, I am certain that my age, sex and athletic background would provide fresh insight for me to write provocative stories. Evidently, articles written for and about young athletes can be told better through an empathetic voice.

While travelling to the Summer Games would not cure my itchy-footed craving to leave Halifax, I am confident that it would provide the incentive I need to pursue a career in journalism and accomplish my goal to write about the world.

Katharine Dunn
Halifax, NS

NEW TESTING IN THE WORKS Michel Audran of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Montpelier in France and Raynald Gareau, a professor at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres, have found a way to detect EPO, otherwise known as erythropoetin. This performance-enhancer increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and until now was detectable only through a blood test.

Funded by the French Sport Ministry and an international pharmaceutical company, the two researchers have managed to bypass the necessary blood test and can find tell-tale enzymes in a user's urine. EPO causes a degradation of certain molecules to occur and the testing process looks for this evidence that the product has been in the athlete's system.

This poses a problem for testing. Present legislation tests only for banned substances that are actually present in the urine; new rules would have to be drawn up to allow for the detection of an indicator, and not the product itself, to count as a positive.

There is still a lot of work to do to confirm their research, but the professors feel that their findings will one day be helpful in preventing sudden heart attacks among users of the drug, particularly cyclists. EPO is dangerous in that it causes a thickening of the blood, giving the heart an abnormal workload.

Remember... It's not true until it has been officially denied.

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