Panel Denies U.S. Bobsledder's Drug Appeal
By Larry Siddons
Tuesday, February 10, 1998; 9:21 p.m. EST
NAGANO, Japan A U.S. bobsledder was removed from the Olympic team after his drug suspension was upheld by an arbitrator, who urged that the athlete stay in Nagano because he was guilty only of carelessness and further punishment would be "distasteful.''
Michael Dionne, a pusher on the No. 3 four-man sled, was moved out of the Olympic Village and into a downtown hotel by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which gave him an official's credential so he could watch the Games. It said he could keep his uniform but was no longer on the squad.
Dionne, from Alpharetta, Ga., asked the International Council for Arbitration in Sports to overturn his suspension, imposed after a World Cup meet in Calgary last November, because he had taken the drug ephedrine accidentally as part of a cold medicine.
In ruling Wednesday (Tuesday night EST), arbitrator Jan Paulsson, a French attorney, said the suspension must stand even though he accepted Dionne's contention of inadvertent use.
"Mr. Dionne is not accused of dishonesty but of carelessness,'' Paulsson's decision said.
He urged that the sledder be allowed to stay in Nagano.
"For Mr. Dionne to be requested to leave the games would be a distasteful further punishment not intended by the FIBT [international bobsled federation],'' Paulsson wrote.
The USOC, which supported Dionne's appeal, said Paulsson's ruling was out of the ordinary.
"The arbitrator made it very clear that he [Dionne] is not a cheater, that he is a good individual, that it was inadvertent and that it would be inhumane for him to be asked to leave the games,'' USOC executive director Dick Schultz said. "It's very unusual.''
It also was one of the few times ICAS has ruled against an athlete. Established by the International Olympic Committee to handle eligibility dispute and keep them out of the courts, the council repeatedly has overturned drug suspensions, including several at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Dionne's suspension, retroactive to Nov. 22, was announced by FIBT as the sledder was headed for the USOC's team processing center in Osaka, Japan. He was allowed to march in Saturday's opening ceremony, train with the team and live in the Olympic Village after the USOC obtained a temporary stay of the suspension last week.
While Dionne was part of the U.S. team, he could not compete. FIBT said Monday that his place on the third-sled lineup had been taken by another athlete and the deadline for further substitutions was past.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
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