Olympic gold medalist Michelle Smith de Bruin lost her appeal today to lift her four-year drug ban.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed the case by the Irish swimmer, who was banned by the sport's governing body amid accusations she tampered with a urine sample.
The international swimming federation (FINA) suspended Smith on Aug. 6, 1998, after finding her guilty of manipulating the out-of-competition drug test. FINA said the samples were contaminated by a large amount of alcohol, which could mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs.
The three-member CAS panel rejected Smith's defense that the samples were not hers or that a third party was responsible. The panel also dismissed Smith's contention that the burden of proof was upon FINA.
"Based on the facts of the case and the evidence before them, the arbitrators were of the opinion that FINA had convinced them that (Smith) was the only person who had the motive and opportunity to manipulate the sample," the CAS statement said.
There was no immediate comment from Smith's lawyer, Peter Lennon. Calls to his Dublin office went unanswered and his mobile phone was switched off.
Smith, who emerged from relative obscurity to win three gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, submitted to a random drug test at her home in Kilkenny, Ireland, on Jan. 10, 1998.
FINA later reported that the sample was contaminated with large amounts of alcohol, apparently whiskey. There was so much liquor that it would have killed a person had it been a legitimate sample. Analysis of the backup sample at the IOC accredited laboratory in Barcelona confirmed the finding.
Smith denied any wrongdoing and appealed the ban, which disqualifies her from the 2000 Olympics and 2001 World Championships. She appeared at a CAS hearing in Lausanne on May 3-4 to argue her case. Her lawyer, Peter Lennon, maintained there were major flaws in the testing procedures.
Smith's spectacular results in Atlanta led to claims that she used performance enhancing drugs, a charge she repeatedly denied. She said she had been tested more often than her rivals and each time the result was negative.
Smith is coached by her husband Erik de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower and shot putter who was banned for four years after testing positive for high testosterone levels.
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