Skier loses appeal in Olympic doping case

Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2002

LONDON (AP) -- British skier Alain Baxter failed in his bid to reclaim the Olympic bronze medal taken away after he tested positive for a banned substance.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which held a two-day hearing on the case last month, rejected Baxter's appeal Wednesday.

Baxter, the first British skier to win an Olympic medal, tested positive for the banned stimulant methamphetamine after finishing third in the men's slalom at Salt Lake City in February.

The International Olympic Committee found Baxter guilty of a doping offense, disqualified him and revoked his medal.

The 28-year-old Scot contended the positive test resulted from his use of an over-the-counter nasal decongestant which, he said, had no performance-enhancing benefits.

Baxter maintained that, unlike the British product which had been cleared by his medical advisers, the version he bought in the United States contained a mild form of methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine, also known as ''speed,'' is a powerful nervous-system stimulant.

Under the IOC's strict liability rule, athletes are deemed responsible for any banned substance found in their body, regardless of the circumstances.

''The panel is not without sympathy for Mr. Baxter, who appears to be a sincere and honest man who did not intend to obtain a competitive advantage in the race,'' the arbitration panel said.

Baxter's appeal was heard by a three-member arbitration panel in London on Sept. 5-6.

''I'm gutted that I'm not getting the medal back,'' Baxter said at a news conference in Aviemore, Scotland. ''But there are a lot of positive things coming out of this. ... They cleared my name, I'm not classed as a cheat. I can get back to racing in a month's time.''

Baxter and the British Olympic Association wanted the IOC to carry out a second test in order to support their claim that the methamphetamine found in his sample was not performance-enhancing. The IOC refused, saying it doesn't distinguish between the different forms of the stimulant.

The arbitrators upheld the IOC position that Baxter should be disqualified ''whether or not the ingestion of that substance was intentional or negligent and whether or not the substance in fact had any competitive effect.''

The British Olympic expressed disappointment at the arbitration ruling.

''Alain has paid a most severe penalty for a modest mistake and it is clear that the principle of strict liability underscored this decision,'' BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said.

In its updated list of banned substances, which goes into effect Jan. 1, the IOC states that both forms of methamphetamine are prohibited.

Baxter was one of three athletes stripped of medals for doping violations at the Salt Lake City Games.

Cross-country skiers Johann Muehlegg of Spain and Larissa Lazutina of Russia were stripped of gold medals after positive tests for an endurance-boosting drug. They have filed appeals with the arbitration court.

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