British Paralympian and World-Record holder Heather Frederiksen was suspended from swimming for 6 months, retroactive to October 23rd, for testing positive for levels of Salbutamol above those medically allowable. Salbutamol is typically given as a treatment for asthma, and other conditions that cause bronchospasms. Although the International Paralympic Committee had granted a medical waiver for its use, medical use “did not justify this concentration.”
Although there is some disagreement as to how much of a performance enhancing effect there is from Salbutamol, it is used by many bodybuilders as a substitute for Clenbuterol to encourage fat burning. Clenbuterol may sound familiar as the substance that Jessica Hardy was suspended for prior to the 2008 Olympics.
Although Frederiksen is now eligible to compete again, she was stripped of 3 of the 5 gold medals she won at the 2009 European Championships in Iceland, after testing positive in the middle of competition. The medals she will forfeit include the S8 100m freestyle, S9 100m backstroke, and SM8 200m IM. Frederiksen is the World-Record holder in the S8 100m backstroke, which she set in Beijing.
The IPC typically sets a 2-year ban for doping, but decided to reduce the suspension to only 6-months in a hearing conducted on May 4, 2010. According to SwimmingGB chief David Sparkes, “During the hearing, the athlete produced corroborating evidence, to the comfortable satisfaction of the panel, that she did not intend to enhance performance and the judgement reflects this fact.”
The IPC has taken a similar stance as their counterparts at the IOC that some have criticized as a fear to really drop the hammer on a top athlete. Their comments on this case indicate that, as a first time offender, the administration was willing to limit the damage to the reputation of one of the more visible and popular athletes in Paralympic swimming by writing the offense off as an accidental overdose.
Although the 24-year old is cleared to compete again, she was left off of the British squad for the 2010 IPC World Championships in Holland. There is no ruling of suspended athletes missing Olympics as there is for regular Olympic athletes, and so Frederiksen is still eligible to compete in London 2012.
In 2004, Frederiksen suffered a terrible accident, which she still refuses to discuss the details of publicly even with her teammates, that limited her use of her right arm and leg. She was told by her medical team that she would never swim again. This was a huge blow to a woman who was one of the world’s brightest open-water swimming stars, and was on a path to win a gold medal in Beijing in the inaugaral Open-Water competition, not the Paralympic Games.
Earlier that year, Frederiksen won an incredible feat of endurance when she won both the British 10 km Open Water Championship and 4.5 km British Grand Prix on the same day. After 2-years away from the sport, she was inspired to return to the water when she watched countrymate Joanne Jackson swim to victory in the 400m freestyle at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.