Hardy cleared to compete at London Olympics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World record holder Jessica Hardy has been cleared to compete at the 2012 London Olympics if she qualifies for the United States team, her attorney said in a statement on Thursday.

Hardy, whose participation was in doubt because of a disputed doping sanction, was given special approval to compete by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) given the unusual circumstances of her case, her attorney, Howard Jacobs, said in a statement.

"This clears the way for Jessica Hardy to compete at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, and assuming that she qualifies, to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London," Jacobs said.

The announcement from the lawyer came one day after the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee asked sport's highest court to make a definitive ruling on an eligibility rule that could keep some athletes out of the London Olympic Games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport was asked to determine the validity of IOC Rule 45, which bars any athlete receiving a doping sanction of greater than six months from competing at the next Olympic Games.

Hardy, 24, may have been affected by any subsequent ruling after serving a one-year suspension after testing positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials.

The offense normally carries a two-year ban but she was given a reduced penalty after she explained that she took nutritional supplements after having obtained assurances from the manufacturer that it was safe, only to discover later that the supplements were contaminated.

She withdrew from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and returned to swimming last year after her ban, reclaiming her world record in the 100 meters. But the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lodged an appeal and demanded that she been given a two-year penalty, which may have kept her out of the London Olympics.

CAS rejected WADA's appeal and said the ban was appropriate but Wednesday's request for clarification on eligibility may have threatened her participation.

"I am ecstatic that the IOC has recognized my unique situation and that this rule does not apply to me," she said.

"With this final hurdle now behind me, I can now focus 100 percent of my efforts on preparing for and representing my country at next year's Olympic Games, a lifelong dream that was taken away from me in 2008."

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Frank Pingue)