Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli stripped of championship for doping

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oussama Mellouli, posing with a championship medal
Image: Oussama Mallouli.

Yesterday Tunisian star swimmer Oussama Mellouli was stripped by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, of his world championship and another world championships silver medal from the 2007 World Aquatics Championship, which was held in Melbourne, Australia, in March.

He was also suspended for 18 months retroactive to November 30, 2006 — all for testing positive for amphetamine, after using the drug Adderall, which aids concentration levels, and which is widely used by college students when cramming for exams.

A few weeks after the conclusion of the 2007 World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne in late March 2007, reports began to surface that Mellouli had tested positive for a banned substance at the US Open in November 2006. These reports surfaced because FINA, the international governing body of the sport, had discovered that Tunisian authorities had known about the positive test and only given him a warning. The rules state that when an athlete tests positive for a banned substance, he or she must be given a 2 year ban from the sport. Therefore, FINA had taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Finally, after months of speculation, yesterday Oussama Mellouli lost his case before that Court.

He escaped the worst possible punishment, because the timing and the retroactive status of the suspension give Mellouli a chance to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where he is a favorite in several medium distance races.

However, he loses the distinction of having become the first Arab world champion in the history of competitive swimming (in 800 m freestyle), and loses another silver medal (in 400 m freestyle) from his best-ever showing at the Australian world championships.