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By Agence France Presse
Australia’s former world sprint champion Sean Eadie, nominated to race in Athens, faces a two-year ban after being accused Monday of drug trafficking in the latest doping scandal to rock the country’s Olympic preparations.
Cycling Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has issued Eadie with an infraction notice after customs officers reported intercepting a package addressed to him of banned and as yet undetectable drugs sent through the mail five years ago from the United States.
Australian law at the time did not permit customs to inform cycling officials of its find, but it did inform Eadie by letter. The law has since been changed.
Eadie would be the third athlete to be dropped from the Athens line-up over breaches of doping rules, joining cyclist Mark French and weightlifter Caroline Pileggi.
But the veteran cyclist has denied the charge.
“Any banned substance — never used them, never imported them, never even thought of or tried to import them or use them. It’s against the very philosophy I have in sport,” Eadie told commercial television.
The AOC said the package contained 16 tablets containing anterior pituitary peptides, a sub-class of peptide hormones which are prohibited as performance-enhancing substances.
“The class includes human growth hormone and use of these peptides by athletes is not detectable under existing anti-doping testing,” AOC president John Coates said in a statement. “We have advised Sean Eadie that we believe he has committed the offense of ‘trafficking’.”
Eadie, 34, faces a minimum two-year ban and could lose the Olympic sprint bronze medal he won in Sydney four years ago.
“If he doesn’t successfully defend these allegations, then certainly the International Olympic Committee would take back the medal he won in 2000, and any subsequent achievements or medals he had would be at risk,” Coates said.
Eadie has 14 days to respond. Cycling Australia said he had not tested positive for a banned substance.
The news comes as another blow to Australia’s cycling fraternity already mired in a damaging drugs scandal just a month before the start of the Athens Games.
“It’s certainly very damaging to the Australian cycling team,” said Coates, who also said he would now delay naming any more teams for Athens until doping authorities had given all nominees the all clear.
Four-time world junior champion French, 19, was recently banned from competing at the Olympics for life after being found guilty of trafficking the banned steroid Testicamp.
Used syringes and vials containing an equine growth hormone, among other substances, were found in French’s room at the Australian Institute of Sport.
The disgraced athlete has since named Eadie as being among five cyclists who used his room to inject substances. But they were cleared by a subsequent investigation by a retired judge.
The final track cycling team is yet to be named and Eadie’s inclusion depends on the result of the latest doping charge.
He is one of the more familiar and older faces on the Australian cycling team and famously sports a dark, bushy beard in major competitions. But Cycling Australia’s refusal to release the judge’s report has drawn swift criticism from World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound.
Pound said the Australian team would remain under a cloud of suspicion until the report was made public.
One of the cyclists named by French, Jobie Daijka, is being investigated by police over links to the equine growth hormone EquiGen while weightlifter Pileggi, a gold medallist at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, is not going to Athens after refusing to take a drugs test.
Coates said 96 percent of the 475-strong Australian Olympic team had been tested for drugs. “They are clean and they are very decent Australian athletes,” he said.