Claudia Poll’s Ban Is Cut; she’s Cleared for Athens 2004

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Sept. 23 FINA, swimming's international governing body, has cut the doping ban on Claudia Poll from four years to two, cleaaring the way for the Costa Rican nataional treasure to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics, her coach, Francisco Rivas, said today.

FINA suspended the 1996 Olympic champion in June 2002 after she tested positive for norandrosterone, a metabolite of the banned steroid nandrolone, in out-of-competition testing in February 2002.

But Rivas was not satisfied. "The reduction of the ban shows us that we are on the right path, but we haven't achieved the goal of seeing Claudia cleared of this false accusation," he said.

"We are not satisfied because Claudia is fighting to be totally absolved, due to her complete innocence," he said.

Poll and Rivas have argued sampling and laboratory procedures were flawed and the quantities of nandrolone detected were too low to be significant.
But the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed Poll's appeal last February, saying she did not bring any convincing argument to establish her case.

Poll has been one of the sport's outstanding performers in recent years and is the only athlete from her nation ever to win Olympic gold. She took gold in the 200 meter freestyle at the 1996 Olympics and the 1998 World Championships. At the Sydney Games three years ago, she earned two bronze medals.

"Claudia has not stopped training and is ready to go for the times that would allow her to participate in Athens," Rivas said.

FINA officials were unavailable for commentss.