Christine Ohuruogu: In the clear
World 400-meter champion Christine Ohuruogu has won her appeal against a lifetime Olympic ban for missing doping tests.
The 23-year-old British runner was cleared to compete in next year’s Beijing Olympics after the ruling by a sports arbitration panel.
“I was very relieved when I heard the verdict and now I can move on,” Ohuruogu said.
“I would love to compete for Britain at the Beijing Olympics if I am selected for the team.”
Ohuruogu overturned a British Olympic Association rule which automatically bans any athlete found guilty of a doping violation from competing in any future Olympics.
She argued her case at a 3.5 hour hearing in London.
“The panel decided that Christine Ohuruogu’s appeal had been successful due to significant mitigating circumstances,” the BOA said in a statement.
Ohuruogu won the 400-meter world title in Osaka, Japan, on August 29, just weeks after completing a one-year ban imposed by UK Athletics for missing three out-of-competition drug tests between October 2005 and July 2006.
“I accept full responsibility for missing the tests,” she said.
“The rule was there and the punishment was there. But I can honestly say I am not a drugs cheat. I have been tested constantly this year and I have proved I am clean.”
Ohuruogu was the first British track athlete punished for missing three tests.
She said she missed the testers when her training schedules were changed at late notice.
“The BOA will now be pleased to welcome Christine Ohuruogu as part of Team GB in Beijing next year in the event of her successful nomination by UK Athletics,” BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said.
Clegg defended the procedures which led to the ban being imposed in the first place.
“The BOA and the panel both stress that no-advance notice out-of-competition testing is a fundamental part of ensuring an effective fight against doping in sport,” he said.
“Athletes must be fully aware of their obligations to keep their whereabouts information up to date at all times and must ensure that they are available for testing at the designated times and places.”
UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner said three other British athletes have missed two tests, knowing that one more no-show will result in a ban.
“Athletes should make a note of what happened to me,” Ohuruogu said.
“I would tell them to get as much help as possible from their coaches, from the people around them, just to remind them not to miss the test.”
Ohuruogu is the latest athlete to successfully appeal against the BOA rule.
Former world triathlon champion Tim Don and judo athlete Peter Cousins, who both served three-month suspensions for missing drug tests, are among those who have overturned lifetime Olympic bans.
“I’m so pleased for her,” Ohuruogu’s coach Lloyd Cowan said.
“We now just have to move on and get this cloud over our head out of the way…. I will be doing everything possible to assist her to win an Olympic medal next summer.”
UK Athletics performance director Dave Collins welcomed the ruling.
“Christine committed a technical anti-doping offense and has paid the price for that,” he said.
“There is no evidence or suggestion that she has ever taken performance-enhancing substances or had any sinister intentions in missing the tests.”
UK Sport, the quasi-government body with oversight over sports in Britain, said the BOA’s automatic life ban rule should be reconsidered.
It suggested that a lifetime Olympic penalty should only be imposed in the case of a “serious offense” meriting a minimum two-year suspension under the World Anti-Doping Code.
“This still sends out a very strong message that cheats cannot represent Britain at the Games, but recognizes that others should not be punished excessively,” UK Sport chief executive John Steele said.
Meanwhile, a Russian acrobatic gymnast lost her World Cup final title and was banned from competition for a year after testing positive for a diuretic last spring.
Tatiana Okulova, who won the mixed pairs title with Revaz Gurgenidze at the World Cup final in April, was suspended for 12 months after testing positive for furosemide, the International Gymnastics Federation said.
Furosemide also is classified as a masking agent on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.
Maria Kovtun and Anton Glazkov of Russia, who finished second to Okulova and Gurgenidze at the World Cup final, will now be listed as the winners.
Wee Xiau-Ling and Andre Solodar of the United States move up to second, while Anastasia Zharnasek and Sergei Bykhavtsov of Belarus now get the bronze medal.