Faulty USADA doping test allows Jenkins to resume Olympic campaign
You can't win 'em all -- not even the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The seven-year-old agency suffered its first-ever defeat in a case brought to arbitration Friday when a three-person arbitration panel ruled in favor of sprinter LaTasha Jenkins, who had been sanctioned for using the anabolic steroid nandralone.
USADA's overall record fell to 36-1 since it started prosecuting American athletes for doping violations. Jenkins, a 2001 world track medalist, now has the option of resuming her effort to try for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
The arbitration panel ruled the results of Jenkins' positive doping test from a track meet in Belgium last year were compromised because both European labs testing her sample violated international standards that require the tests be run by two different technicians.
"It's a good day for athletes," said Michael Straubel, a Valparaiso Law School professor who worked for free for Jenkins, along with four Valpo law students. "The panel acknowledged that an allegation of doping is a serious matter which profoundly affects an athlete, and laboratories therefore must ensure the highest scientific reliability of the testing process."
Jenkins had been coached by Trevor Graham, who is charged with three felony counts of making false statements to federal investigators. The government has accused him of lying in 2004 when he denied distributing steroids or telling his athletes where they could get them. His trial is pending.
Friday's decision was similar to one in favor of Spanish cyclist Inigo Landaluce last year. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the lab that tested his sample violated testing standards. That case was not prosecuted by USADA.
Holding labs to higher standards was a key issue in the heavily publicized Floyd Landis doping case earlier this year -- a case Landis lost even though the arbitration panel acknowledged holes in the testing practices at the French lab that analyzed his urine.
Landis and attorney Maurice Suh said part of the reason they took their case public was to expose the process and push for improvements in the future.
"I want USADA, when accusing people of breaking the rules, to follow the rules," Landis said. "Here you have a person who is missing a year of her life. You can't possibly put a value on that."
Suh said he wasn't surprised USADA's first loss came in a relatively low-profile case. Still, he thought it was a sign the explosive Landis case might have had an effect.
"I hope we brought attention to problems in testing and to the fact that rules are important," Suh said. "They shouldn't be enforced one way against one athlete and other ways against others depending on the political pressure that's going on."
Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA, said he could not comment on the Jenkins case since it is technically still considered to be ongoing.
"USADA is not the judge," Tygart said, speaking in general about cases. "At the end of the day, independent arbitrators make a decision through an established process that's designed to protect the accused athlete's rights. They base the decision on the evidence presented."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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