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By Agence France Presse
Australian cyclist Mark French has had a two-year ban for doping overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the international body said Tuesday.
Australian Olympic Committee officials said the ruling also meant a lifetime ban on competing at the Olympics had been lifted and that French would be eligible for a place at the 2008 Beijing Games.
A three-man CAS panel found there was no evidence that drug vials found in a bucket in French’s room at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Adelaide contained the banned substance glucocorticosteroid. While there was equine growth hormone in the bucket, there was insufficient evidence that French knowingly used or trafficked in the drug, it said.
French admitted using glucocorticosteroid but said he believed at the time he was taking a harmless vitamin supplement called Testicomp. He denied any knowledge of equine growth hormone found in the bucket.
French, a former junior world champion cyclist, received the ban last year and sparked a scandal when he said five cyclists had used his room at the AIS to inject substances. His allegations surfaced publicly as Australia’s team was being announced for the Athens Games last year. Cyclist Sean Eadie was first removed and then reinstated to the Olympic team, while world keirin champion Jobie Dajka was initially retained but later kicked out when it was found he had lied to a Cycling Australia inquiry.
French said he had not decided whether to make a comeback after being cleared.
“It’s something I need to sit down and think about because once you do it you’ve got to do it full on,” he said.
Cycling Australia chief executive Graham Fredricks said he was frustrated the case had no “cut-and-dried resolution” but the CAS had demanded evidence that virtually proved French’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“We presented our evidence and it hasn’t been enough. We have exhausted all our legal avenues and there is nothing else we can do … this case is now closed,” Fredricks said in a statement. “I’m sad that cycling has been dragged through this because the sport doesn’t deserve it.”