WADA loses bid to hike suspension of swimmer Hardy

By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World record holder Jessica Hardy has been cleared to continue swimming after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lost an appeal to increase the American's ban from one to two years.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Friday they had dismissed WADA's appeal to double the suspension but left open the possibility she could be ruled out of the 2012 Olympics in London.

CAS agreed with an earlier ruling from the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to impose a reduced 12-month ban after finding she had not been significantly negligent but did not wade into the issue of whether she can compete in London.

"It should be noted that the decision leaves open the question of the IOC eligibility rule, which refuses entry to Olympic Games by athletes who have been suspended from sport for more than 6 months for doping," WADA said in a statement.

"The panel did not accept jurisdiction in relation to this matter, nor did it consider it could be part of any further reduction of the penalty."

Hardy, a world record holder in breaststroke, has already served a one-year suspension after testing positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials, which normally carries a two-year ban.

The AAA reduced it to one year when Hardy explained she took nutritional supplements after having obtained assurances from the manufacturer and a CAS panel of arbitrators said the shortened penalty should stand.

"They agreed that Jessica Hardy had shown good faith efforts before ingesting the food supplements at stake," the court said in a statement explaining their decision.

"The athlete had personal conversations with the manufacturer about the supplements' purity prior to taking them, she obtained the supplements directly from the manufacturer, not from an unknown source; supplements she took were not labeled in a manner which might have raised suspicions."

WADA said they would accept the court's ruling that a 12-month ban was appropriate under the circumstances.

"Under the World Anti-Doping Code, when a panel determines that an athlete has committed no significant fault or negligence, as the CAS panel did in this case, the period of ineligibility may be reduced to a maximum of half the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility," WADA said.

"CAS accepted a sanction of 12 months was appropriate. WADA is satisfied that CAS fully scrutinized this case and abides by the CAS ruling."

Hardy voluntarily withdrew from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and returned to swimming last year after completing her ban, reclaiming her world record in the 100 meters.

But the 23-year-old is still unsure whether she can compete at the London Games.

In her submission, Hardy asked CAS to add the IOC to this arbitration hearing but her request was rejected. CAS also declined her request to make a recommendation on the 2012 Games.

(Additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)