Ryan Napoleon has been cleared to participate in next month’s Commonwealth Games as a member of Team Australia, according to ABC Sport in Australia.
In one of the more bizare doping cases on record, Napoleon was given incorrectly-labeled (and wrong) medicine by a pharmacist. The medicine was in the form of an inhaler prescribed by his doctor to help control his asthma. His prescription was for Pulmicort, which he was allowed to use, but he was incorrectly given an inhaler instead filled with Symbicort, which contains the banned substance Formoterol. Formoterol is allowed with a therapeutic use exemption–his teammate Nick D’Arcy has one– but Napoleon had obviously not filed the proper paperwork with FINA, because he never intended to use the banned substance. He has taken the same medicine his whole life, but this is the first time that he has (knowingly) had a mix-up.
Despite the fact that it was clearly not Napoleon’s fault, the FINA doping panel decided that a 3-month suspension was in place for the distance specialist. This ban would be just enough to knock him out of October’s Commonwealth Games
Originally, Napoleon chose not to appeal the suspension, for fear that if he took the issue to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, which is the highest (and only) appeal available above the FINA ruling, that the suspension would be made any longer. This was a real issue, because if it was extended to more than 6-months, Napoleon would be kept from competing in the 2012 Olympics.
The Aussie quickly changed his mind about appealing, however, after learning that during his suspension he would be prevented from training with a club.
The CAS, which rightfully made the decision with haste, announced yesterday that they would be partially overturning FINA’s decision, by making Napoleon’s 3-month ban retroactive to June 15, 2010, meaning that starting today it will be lifted, and Napoleon will be allowed to resume training with his teammates for the CG’s. Additionally, they announced that any times he swam between November 16, 2009–when he tested positive–and January 28, 2010, would be scratched from the record, which is of little real consequence in the grand scheme.
In this writer’s opinion, the CAS made exactly the right decision when they ruled that Napoleon had done his due diligence, and that it is incomprehensible that a swimmer should have to worry about something like a licensed pharmacist mislabeling a prescription. At the same time, the medicine theoretically gave him a slight edge while he was using it, so they scratched any times that he swam while it was still in his system. Additionally, they made the ruling in time for Napoleon to prepare for the Commonwealth Games.
But the question now is has the damage been done to his training. Because he was not allowed to train with his coach in Brisbane (or any other organized club for that matter) while appealing the suspension, Napoleon turned into a journeyman of sorts. He has been biding his time trying to train on his own in neighborhood pools and in open water.
As Napoleon put it so aptly, “Any sportsman who trains under a coach or in a group would know how difficult it is to train alone.”
He went on to say that he’s been busy “chasing public swimmers” at neighborhood clubs, (which evokes some pretty comical images of Napoleon as a “one man wolf pack” in the pool; but I digress.)
The CAS corrected the decision as best they could without some sort of time travel. Now Napoleon has a new challenge ahead of him: rather than chasing fitness swimmers, he will now be chasing Canadian Ryan Cochrane, who put on an absolute distance clinic at the Pan-Pac Championships by going a 14:49 in the 1500 and a 7:48 in the 800 without any serious challenge.