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Hardy takes herself off U.S. swim team

With time against her, Long Beach athlete will miss the Olympics after positive drug test.

August 02, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

The result was almost expected.

But the method of getting there was anything but.

Jessica Hardy, the 21-year-old Long Beach swimmer who tested positive July 4 for a low level of the banned substance clenbuterol, won't be competing at the Olympics in Beijing.

Instead of a protracted appeals process, Hardy opted to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic squad in "the best interests of the team," according to a release Friday afternoon from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

It was a surprising twist in a case that has also put USA Swimming under scrutiny over its selection procedures. Hardy's positive test, following her fourth-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle, came between two negative tests, on July 1 after the 100 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle on July 6.

"While it is an unfortunate circumstance for an Olympian to come this far only to lose a coveted position on the Olympic team, Ms. Hardy is working expediently and agreeably to resolve the situation with as little impact to the U.S. Olympic team as possible," said USADA's chief executive Travis Tygart. "While some might have chosen to exhaust their legal options to try to force their way into the Games, Jessica instead chose to put her team's interests ahead of her own."

Under the terms of the joint agreement with arbitrators, Hardy does have the opportunity to come back to the arbitration panel with evidence that "could reduce her period of ineligibility." The ban, as it stands, is for two years.

The clock was a hurdle in the effort to get to Beijing. Hardy, who declared her innocence on national television, hired highly regarded defense attorney Howard Jacobs to handle her case. But, typically, these matters are played out over a matter of months, rather than a week and a half or so.

That was hinted at in the USADA release, which said that Hardy was "given additional time to investigate possible causes of her positive drug test." It also was noted that she did not contest the laboratory findings.

"Based upon information obtained as recently as today, August 1, she accepts the fact that the testing was properly done and the results properly reported," Jacobs said in a statement. "She sadly accepts the fact that this necessarily means she will not be able to compete in the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, and faces a possible two-year suspension of eligibility."

But the impact of the case went beyond Hardy. USA Swimming, which has been silent on the matter, said in a statement that Hardy would be replaced by swimmers from the existing roster, Rebecca Soni in the 100 breaststroke and Kara Lynn Joyce in the 50 free.

Tara Kirk, who finished third at the Olympic trials in the 100 breaststroke, was highly critical of USA Swimming in her blog on WCSN.com, writing: "I have been told by people within the USOC and USA Swimming that USA Swimming knew about the positive drug test before the entry deadline [on July 21]."

The other swimmers on the outside looking in along with Kirk were Lara Jackson, who finished third in the 50 free, and Amanda Weir. Weir could have been placed in the pool of possible 400 freestyle relay swimmers.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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