BY Phillip Whitten
HAMBURG, Germany, September 26. GERMANY'S Franzi van Almsick criticized reduced bans for drug cheats today after FINA cut a four-year ban on Costa Rica's Claudia Poll and other swimmers to two years.
"If someone has tested positive I think they should be banned for life," the 25-year-old world 200 meter freestyle record holder told the German newspaper Die Welt.
In July, FINA, swimming's international governing body, reduced the penalty for a first doping offense from four years to two under intense pressure from the IOC and WADA. In a bit of unintended irony, the two bodies hailed the two-year doping penalty that now exists across all Olympic sports, as a great leap forward.
Poll won the 200 meter freestyle at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and won two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Games. In February 2002, it was announced that the Costa Rican national hero had tested positive for norandrosterone and she was banned for four years. For her part, Poll has steadfastly proclaimed her innocence.
However, earlier this week that ban was reduced to two years, which enables Poll, 30, to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens against van Almsick.
"It does not concern me whether Poll is in Athens or not," said van Almsick, the world record-holder at 200 meters. "I intend to win there."