Smith banned 4 years for spiking test Irish '96 Olympic champ ineligible for 2000 Games

Swimming

August 07, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Michelle Smith, the swimmer who won three gold medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics and became Ireland's most decorated athlete, was banned yesterday from competition for four years after being found guilty of manipulating a urine sample with alcohol.

Even as she won her Olympic races in Atlanta , suspicions arose about the authenticity of Smith's performances, given that her times had improved dramatically late in her career. Suspicion continued to grow after Smith failed to appear for at least one drug test following the Atlanta Games.

Still, yesterday's announcement was shattering in Ireland, where Smith had become a heroine as the country's first woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Now she has become one of the most accomplished athletes ever to be banned in a drug scandal.

"I think it's a shame that someone who has competed on such a high level would be in this situation, but you've got to compete with integrity and it's important to train with integrity," said Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles, the first woman to be selected as a vice president of the IOC.

Last Jan. 10, Smith was given an unannounced drug test in Dublin as part of an out-of-competition doping control program administered by FINA, swimming's world governing body.

Her sample, tested in a Barcelona laboratory accredited by the IOC, was found to have "unequivocal signs of adulteration," according to the lab report.

The report said that the concentration of alcohol present in the sample "is in no way compatible with human consumption" and that the sample showed "a very strong whiskey odor."

A second test on Smith's urine sample was performed on May 21 and the results were compatible with the January test, according to FINA. At a hearing on July 24, a federation doping panel found that the sample had been manipulated in an uncertain manner by Smith and not by the laboratory, the collectors or the transporters of the sample.

Yesterday, Smith, 28, was banned from national and international competition for four years, making her ineligible for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

At Atlanta, suspicions were raised because she had moved to the top of international competition at a relatively late age and by the fact that her husband, Erik de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower, had been suspended by track and field's world governing body for excessive levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone that can also be used as a muscle-building steroid.

Pub Date: 8/07/98

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