Venezuelan swimmer Albert Subirats, who won a gold in the 50 fly and silver in the 100 fly at last year’s Short Course World Championships, has been suspended by FINA for one year under it’s anti-doping policy.
Subirats, who is the third major swimming and diving athlete suspended in the last two days (along with USC diver Harrison Jones and Brazilian backstroker Fabiola Molina), had his case heard by the FINA doping panel after three “filing violations” within an 18-month period, meaning that he failed to properly notify FINA of his time and place for drug-testing availability.
Subirats contended that he has sent all of his proper whereabouts to the Venezuelan Swimming Federation in a timely manner, which he verified with email documentation, but that the VSF had failed to properly file that information with FINA. He even showed that he has expressed concern about the federation sending the information to FINA on time.
The World Anti-Doping Code specifically state that it shall not be a defense for incorrect filing that an athlete has delegated that responsibility to a third-party, who then failed to follow proper filing protocol. The rules mandate anywhere between a one-and-two year sentence, and the doping panel acknowledged that there appeared to be absolutely zero intent by Subirats’ part to deceive the doping regulators, and therefore they handed him the minimum suspension allowabale. The decision also negates all results beginning January 3rd, 2011, which means that he will have to hustle after his return to make Olympic qualifying standards. As a result, Subirats will miss this summer’s World Championships, where he was slotted to be fairly dangerous after a seeming revival of his career.
Any appeal would go directly to the Court of Arbitration of Sport, though given that Subirats is not contesting that his filings never made it to FINA, it appears as though he’s in fairly clear violation of the rules. There is some precedent, after FINA last year waived the 3rd missed filing of Spanish butterflier Rafa Munoz, though that waiver was granted on the basis of a note from a doctor stating that he was not in proper mental condition to undergo drug testing.
The tragedy of this case is that it points to the fact that the anti-doping code is still huge and poorly understood, which was admitted by the panel that presided over this case. Though some efforts have been made in this department, there is still a lot of work to be done in ensuring that this sort of careless, administrative error does not rob world-class swimmers of their right to compete.
While swimming for Arizona from 2004-2007, Subirats won three NCAA Championships in the 100 fly (2006-2007) and 100 back (2006).
The full report from the FINA panel can be found here.