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Friday, September 28, 2012

Armstrong doping suspension reduced; Paralympic champ eligible to return immediately

Armstrong doping suspension reduced; Paralympic champ eligible to return immediately

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Jim Armstrong, seen during action at the 2009 world wheelchair curling championship, is again eligible to curl internationally for Canada after having his doping suspension reduced to six months. Photo, Dallas Bittle/World Curling Federation
Jim Armstrong will be back on the ice this season, chasing the right to wear the Maple Leaf at international wheelchair curling competitions, including the chance to defend the gold medal he won at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver.

The 62-year-old six-time Brier participant, whose curling now has to be done from a wheelchair thanks to a serious car accident and ongoing knee issues, had an 18-month doping suspension from the World Curling Federation reduced to six months (a span that expired on Sept. 5) following a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the summer in Toronto. The hearing result was made public on Friday.

“Absolutely, it’s a relief,” said Armstrong on Friday. “Was there an adverse analytical finding? Yes. Could it be explained? Yes. And at the end of the day, that’s what they decided. It certainly doesn’t negate the fact there was an offence. But there’s an asterisk on it. They saw what it was an how it came about and applied a little bit of compassion to a very unwieldy circumstance.”
Armstrong, originally from Vancouver and now living in Ontario, tested positive for Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer that has been used by athletes to counter the side-effects of steroid use. Armstrong said he ingested the drug accidentally; his late wife, Carleen, died in 2009 because of breast cancer and was using the drug, and Armstrong said some of her leftover drugs got mixed into the various medicines he takes on a daily basis to deal with his medical problems. The Tamoxifen pills are similar-looking to the ASA 81-mg pills that he (and many other men) take to help prevent heart attacks.

The positive test was revealed to him on the eve of the world wheelchair championship in South Korea last January, and Armstrong immediately came home. The WCF reduced the standard two-year suspension to 18 months because of the circumstances of the case.
Armstrong launched an appeal, and with lawyers Emir Crowne and Christina Khoury backing him up he had his day in court in June in Toronto.

According to the findings of the CAS, “the WCF Panel did not properly exercise its discretion” in assessing the 18-month penalty, noting the accidental nature of the offence and the obvious lack of benefits to Armstrong (quite the opposite, actually; it would do more harm than good) from ingesting the Tamoxifen.

“The sanction imposed on an athlete must not be disproportionate to the offence and must always reflect the extent of the athlete’s guilt,” the CAS report stated.

But the six months of the original suspension remained in place: “The fact that the Appellant stored his own medicine together with the medicine of his wife in a box and also reused containers of Tamoxifen, certainly does not constitute an exercise of utmost caution,” said the report.
With the CAS decision, Armstrong can immediately return to the ice for competitive events and start his bid to be named to the Paralympic team for the Sochi Olympics. According to the Sport Canada website, he’s also eligible to receive Sport Canada funding; a suspension of two years or greater makes you permanently ineligible.

Armstrong was to fly to Vancouver on Friday to take part in a national-team wheelchair camp, as he’s back in the 14-member Team Canada pool to play at the world championship in Sochi, Russia — a test event for the 2014 Paralympics.

“Under the circumstances, I think it’s as close to vindication as I can get,” said Armstrong. “Did I make an inadvertent error? Obviously, I did. But it was explained.”


Anonymous said...

Regardless of talent , Jim Armstrong is a disgrace to the sport of Wheelchair curling and the fact he is allowed to return is a complete appaling and makes a mockery of the whole process of "selection camp". He is a black mark on the sport and should be banned for life. CCA dropped the ball on this. What a complete joke. Im not a competitor or curler but follow this closely and could NOT believe this news!

Anonymous said...

What an absolute joke!!

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly AGREE!!! There is a pool of very talented players....draw from them...move on with the team...and FORGET about this disgrace of a man

Anonymous said...

Can he now also compete in the United States, as lets not forget... he's a convicted criminal resulting from his first offense, the fake viagra/cialis smuggling.

Anonymous said...

He can apply for a pardon but what is more interesting is CCA has only issued 4 of the athlete funding cards and are holding one back. Wanna make a bet as to who's going to get that last card?

Anonymous said...

WOW Reading that tells me the whole "selection camp" is a complete farce! Its an insult to those who travel across the country,taking time off work to do so, thinking they actually have a chance to make the team!

Anonymous said...

well i guess it is true....money can buy your way out of anything...right Jimmy? He really should be skip of the prison curling team and nothing more!