LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Michelle De Bruin, winner of 3 gold medals at the 1996 Olympics, was banned for 4 years today after FINA determined she tampered with her urine sample. The decision was announced by FINA, 13 days after a hearing by its doping panel. The suspension goes into effect immediately.
“This is a great day for the integrity of our sport. FINA is to be congratulated for taking decisive action. My only regret is for those deserving athletes who were cheated of the medals and recognition they rightly had earned at the 1996 Olympic Games and the 1995 and ’97 European Championships,” said Phil Whitten, editor of Swimming World Magazine.
De Bruin’s lawyer, Peter Lennon, was not immediately available for comment. But Lennon has previously said he would appeal to a higher court if De Bruin was found guilty.
De Bruin escaped FINA’s maximum punishment – a life ban. But a four-year suspension, if upheld, would end her career. She is 28 and would miss the 2000 Olympics and the 2001 World Championships.
In an unprecedented case, De Bruin is believed to be the first swimmer banned for manipulating a drug test. De Bruin was charged with manipulating an out-of-competition drug test in January by adulterating her urine sample with alcohol. In April, FINA announced that De Bruin’s samples, tested at the IOC-accredited laboratory in Barcelona, Spain, showed ”unequivocal signs of adulteration” and ”physical manipulation.”
Both samples allegedly contained a lethal concentration of whiskey, suggesting an attempt to mask the presence of banned drugs. Under FINA rules, tampering with a urine sample is considered as serious as taking steroids.
The statement said De Bruin was banned under two rules – one covering a ”a competitor (who) uses or takes advantage of a banned procedure” and the other for ”use of substances and methods which alter the integrity and validity of urine samples used in doping control.”
De Bruin, who says she has been tested more often than any other international swimmer, underwent the out-of-season urine test in Kilkenny County, Ireland, on Jan. 10.
De Bruin and her lawyer appeared at the FINA hearing in Lausanne July 24. FINA’s statement said she ”stressed the fact that no banned substance has been detected in her urine” and she stated that ”from her side there was no physical manipulation of the sample.”
De Bruin has persistently denied taking performance-enhancing drugs. Her coach and husband is former Dutch discus throwner Eric De Bruin, who served a four-year ban from track and field after testing positive for high levels of testosterone.