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Cielo Clear To Race On; 1yr Ban For Waked

Jul 21, 2011  - Craig Lord

File updated with confirmation of earlier SwimNews report.

Olympic and world champion Cesar Cielo can defend his 50m and 100m freestyle world titles in  Shanghai next week after  the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a decision by the Brazilian swimming federation to impose the minimum penalty - a warning - after the sprinter and three of his training partners tested positive for a banned diuretic in May.

FINA had called for a 3-month suspension on Cielo, Nicholas dos Santos and Henrique Barbosa and had challenged the ruling because WADA rules allow a suspension of up to two years for a positive test for Furosemide, which is on the banned substances lists for its ability to help athletes shed weight fast and serve as a masking agent for other substances.

Cielo claimed that the diuretic can only have ended up his blood stream through cross contamination (beyond his control) of a caffeine food supplement that he uses regularly. 

Anti-doping sources told SwimNews earlier that while Cielo will be free to race in the week ahead, warning were also upheld for Brazil teammates Nicholas dos Santos and Henrique Barbosa, who may not race in Shanghai because their results from the selection meet back in May cancelled under WADA rules. 

Vinicius Waked, who has already served a two-month doping ban, has been served with a suspension of one year. He would be back in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games but under IOC rules may not be eligible for Olympic action. 

CAS made the statement at 6pm Shanghai time. The news is expected to produce mixed reaction, the swimming community divided between those who feel that Cielo was the genuine victim of  a mistake and those who believe pre-WADA FINA rules calling for strict liability in which athletes carry full responsibility for what made it into their bloodstreams was the correct way to go in the war on doping in sport.

Several world-class swimmers, including Olympic 100m freestyle champion Alain Bernard (FRA), and Commonwealth champions Geoff Huegill (AUS) and James Goddard (GBR) called the imposition of warning "soft" and "unbelievable". The issue raises questions over inconsistency of application in anti-doping rules that appear to be less than fair and on food supplementation in sport in general, including the legitimacy of products.

"FINA and the CAS have done a great disservice to the world of swimming & set a dangerous precedent," was the Tweet of Roland Schoeman, the South African sprinter on hearing the news. FINA, it must be noted, is bound by the rulings of CAS but some believe that it could exert more pressure on its member federation, Brazil, which has produced a worryingly high number of positives in the past two years.

The German team, with world No 1 ranked 100m freestyler of 2011 Marco di Carli in the midst, reacted cautiously, performance head Lutz Buschkow describing the decision as "unexpected" before adding: "Now we must wait for the detailed grounds of the CAS judgment to be able to understand conclusions and statements."

Di Carli summed up a widely held mood when he said: "It's a big surprise. Everyone had assumed there would be at least a mild punishment. It is a little irritating that … while we do things one way other federations take different approaches. Right now, I have to focus on myself."

While Cielo is clear to race in Shanghai, Albert Subirats, the US-based Venezuelan, is out for a year through no fault of his own after his federation failed to lodge his whereabouts papers with anti-doping authorities in the out-of-competition programme. In Germany last year a 13-year-old boy was banned from the sport for two years for taking a widely used cough medicine (my own family has two bottles of the same cough syrup in the medicine cabinet back home) despite an explanation from his mother that she had been given the medicine by the family doctor and it had not even crossed their minds that a young swimmer far away from making a final at national level, let alone internationally, would be punished so severely for falling foul of anti-doping rules.

FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told reporters that he was not happy with the decision but added: "I respect the decision of the CAS - they are the last legal resort in sports. I'm not satisfied but I think we have done our job." The physician who prescribed the caffeine pills for Cielo testified during the CAS hearing. The nature of his testimony was not specified, prescribing a caffeine product that does not contain furosemide falling shy of explaining how the banned substance got there. CAS will deliver the full details of the case some weeks down the line.

For his part, Howard Jakobs, lawyer for Cielo, told the media: "The arbitrators agreed there was no intent to cheat and no performance enhancing. They accepted the explanation that the supplements were contaminated. It's good now that the arbitrators can distinguish from case to case when an athlete tries to cheat or not."

Cielo will race the 4x100m free on Sunday and will race the 50m butterfly in Shanghai in addition to defending his sprint freestyle crowns.

When asked about concerns in the sport over inconsistency of application of anti-doping rules, one leading coach told SwimNews: "I would say that 'concern' is an understatement. I know Cesar personally very well and personally I believe that he is of the highest character and would not cheat ... but if you are not consistent [in applying penalties] you open up the door to all kinds of abuse and that is a really big concern for us in swimming."

The CAS statement in full:

Lausanne, 21 July 2011 - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rendered its decisions in the following cases concerning four Brazilian swimmers:

  • FINA v. Cesar Cielo & CBDA - FINA v. Nicholas dos Santos & CBDA - FINA v. Henrique Barbosa & CBDA - FINA v. Vinicus Waked & CBDA

Following a positive anti-doping control for the “specified substance” Furosemide, on 1 July 2011 the Brazilian Swimming Federation (CBDA) sanctioned each of the four swimmers with a warning. On 7 July 2011, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) filed appeals against such decisions requesting the CAS to impose an effective period of ineligibility on the athletes (3 months against Cielo, dos Santos and Barbosa, and 1 year against Waked).

With the agreement of all the parties concerned, the CAS conducted an expedited procedure and held a hearing in Shanghai on 20 July 2011 in the presence of the parties, their representatives and witnesses.

The CAS Panel composed of Alan Sullivan QC (Australia) President, Olivier Carrard (Switzerland) and Jeffrey Benz (USA) decided to dismiss the appeals filed by FINA against Cesar Cielo, Henrique Barbosa and Nicolas Dos Santos and to confirm the CBDA’s decision concerning them. The Panel upheld the appeal by FINA against Vinicus Waked and sanctioned the athlete with a one-year suspension, as a result of a second doping offence (Vinicus Waked was already sanctioned on 4 February 2010 with a two-month suspension following a positive test for a specified substance).

For their defence, the athletes have argued that the source of the Furosemide was a contamination of a caffeine supplement that they were regularly using upon prescription.

The CAS Panel will issue the full awards, with the grounds, in a few weeks.