CAS suspends Tunisian swimmer

Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli was banned for 18 months on Tuesday for a doping violation.

updated: September 13, 2007 06:34 IST
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Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli was banned for 18 months on Tuesday for a doping violation and stripped of the gold and silver medals he won at the world championships.

Mellouli, who tested positive for amphetamines at a meet in Indiana on November 30, 2006, was suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an appeal for a two-year ban was filed by the swimming's world governing body.

The ban, which dates back to the time of the doping offense, leaves Mellouli eligible to compete at next year's Beijing Olympics.

Mellouli won gold in the 800-meter freestyle and silver in the 400 freestyle in March at the world championships in Melbourne, Australia. He was the first Tunisian to win a gold medal at a world championships.

CAS ruled that those medals and all of Mellouli's results back to November 30, 2006, are annulled.

CAS decided against the two-year ban because Mellouli, who was studying at the University of Southern California at the time of the positive test, admitted he took the substance.

"The swimmer admitted that he had taken an Adderall pill two days earlier to prevent him from falling asleep so that he could finish writing a report which counted towards his final university diploma," CAS said.

FINA filed the appeal with CAS after the Disciplinary Commission of the Tunisian Swimming Federation concluded that Mellouli had not taken the substance with the intention of enhancing his performance and sanctioned him with only a reprimand and a warning.

In a statement released by his Los Angeles attorney Howard Jacobs, Mellouli said he was "thrilled that the arbitration panel accepted my explanation and believed me when I told them I never have and never would cheat.

"I look forward to competing in Beijing and proving that my gold medal at the 2007 world championships was no fluke, but was achieved through hard work and discipline, with no shortcuts."

CAS noted that Mellouli did not ask for an analysis of the "B" sample. "If the swimmer was indeed guilty of negligence, such negligence was not sufficiently serious to suspend him for two years, which would have meant an automatic ban from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing," the CAS panel ruled.

Przemyslaw Stanczyk of Poland, who took silver behind Mellouli in the 800 at the worlds, stands to inherit the gold medal, while Craig Stevens of Australia would move up to silver and fourth-place Federico Colbertaldo of Italy to bronze.

In the 400, Park Tae-hwan of South Korea won the gold, but Grant Hackett of Australia is expected to move up to silver and Yuri Prilukov of Russia to bronze.

Mellouli also won a gold medal in the 400 individual medley at the 2004 world short course championships in Indianapolis. That medal is not affected by the CAS ruling.