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Kirk says system failed

Swimmer believes she should be added to the Olympic roster after positive drug test by Hardy, who calls it 'a nightmare.'

July 26, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

One swimmer is fuming and writing blogs, feeling she has lost a shot at the Olympics for the second time in less than a month.

Another has launched a media campaign, starting with an appearance Friday on "The Early Show" on CBS, during which she called her positive drug test "a nightmare" and unequivocally proclaiming her innocence.

In the end, it may not matter.

Neither Tara Kirk, currently vacationing in Ireland, nor Jessica Hardy of Long Beach stands much chance of getting on the blocks for the preliminaries of the 100-meter breaststroke on Aug. 10 at the Olympics in Beijing.

Hardy, who tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol on July 4 in between two negative tests, is fighting issues of timing and the World Anti-Doping Agency's strict-liability stance in her arbitration appeal. A low positive or inadvertent consumption is rarely enough to get a competition ban reversed.

Kirk, who missed making the team in the 100 breaststroke by only one-hundredth of a second, felt her four years of hard work was being "shrugged off on a technicality."

What happened was that Hardy was notified of her positive drug test Monday, which also was the deadline for USA Swimming to submit its roster to the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC's deadline to submit official entries to the Games Organizing Committee was by midnight Wednesday, and spokesman Darryl Seibel said he did not think it was possible to make a change in the two-day span.

Seibel, in an e-mail, said it did not "appear there is a process or procedure by which an athlete can be added to the roster as a replacement for someone who is suspended due to a doping violation."

Hardy remains on the team during her appeal process to the American Arbitration Assn., and if it goes as far, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. "It is critical that the rights of an athlete are recognized and respected in the adjudication process," Seibel said.

Kirk's anger was directed at officials and the timeline of events, posting on her blog at WCSN.com, questioning why it took so long for the drug tests to come back and wondering why alternates were not named to the team when there was room to do so:

"The fault now lies on many shoulders and I fear that incompetence, laziness and deceit may have played a role," she wrote. "That is much harder to take. Regardless of intent, mistakes were made and I am paying for them.

"People I trusted to do their jobs and to ensure the working order of the system we put in place for our sport failed me."

USA Swimming officials did not respond when asked for comment about Kirk's blog.

Kirk, an Olympian in 2004, added that she asked USA Swimming to make an appeal to change the final roster. Her coach, Lea Maurer of Stanford, said in an e-mail to The Times on Friday that they were "hopeful that steps may be taken."

The other swimmer impacted was Lara Jackson, who finished third in the 50 freestyle behind Dara Torres and Hardy. She continues to train in Tucson, and is not sure if she wants to press for an appeal, according to her father Keith.

Jackson says she is waiting to confer with her personal coach Rick DeMont.

Her father was not pleased with how the matter has been handled, saying, in a telephone interview from El Paso: "I think USA Swimming could have done a better job of communicating."

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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