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Sleep Pill Ban 'Could Cost' Aussie Medals

Jul 4, 2012  - Craig Lord

News Round-Up:

Australia: Olympic athletes Down Under believe a ban on sleeping tablets imposed by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and announced by chief John Coates this week will cost the Green and Gold medals at London 2012. The move by the AOC followed a claim by 2000 and 2004 1500m free Olympic champion Grant Hackett that he became dependent on Stilnox, a brand of the medication zolpidem, at the time he was a swimmer.

The knee-jerk reaction of officialdom Down Under is one that Americans are smiling at. Michael Phelps is among those who takes - sparingly - the same product under a different brand name when switching time zones. The 14-times Olympic gold medal winner may take one pill before bedtime for three nights, his coach Bob Bowman confirmed during US Olympic swim trials in Omaha that ended on Monday evening. "He does that to make sure he gets six hours straight sleep when he switches time zones. It reduces the effects of jet lag," said Bowman. That much we have known since at least 2007, the media archive tells us.

The Australian ban appears to have been based on what Bowman said, one Olympic athlete's views aired on ABC radio backed up by others. "This will affect the amount of medals the team wins," Olympic shooter Russell Mark said today. "If John Coates tells me I can only use sleeping pills for three nights in London, it will have an effect on my performance. If I don't get a good night's sleep it's not worth me going, I need something to get me eight hours sleep." Users of zolpidem claim that the product is the only sleep aid that allows a full night's sleep but does not leave you feeling drowsy the next day.

That said, Wayne Smith at The Australian had an exclusive with coach Denis Cotterell, who claims the sleeping pill cost Hackett the Beijing 1500m gold and a debut male membership of the triple champions' club with Dawn Fraser and Krisztina Egerszegi.

USA: July 12 in Knoxville is the time and place for a final Team USA briefing with American media before the world 's leading swim team leaves home for a training camp in France on the way to the London 2012 Games. Michael Phelps, Melissa Franklin and possibly Ryan Lochte all have seven events each. Subject to USOC confirmation, 23 men and 24 women have made the US Olympic team.

Romania: four swimmers will represent Romania at London 2012 - 2004 200m freestyle champion Camelia Potec, Norbert Trandafir, Dragos Agache and Alexandru Coci.