Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Swedish ice-hockey player Nicklas Backstrom today withdrew his appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against an International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling that he had violated the World Anti-Doping Code, after sporting authorities agreed to issue him with a reprimand. Backstrom failed a 19 February doping test at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, after his Olympic team physician advised him that he could continue to take medication containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) during the Games.
The medication concerned was Zyrtec-D, which Backstrom had been taking for the past seven years to combat allergies. As Backstrom plays for the Washington Capitals in the US National Hockey League (NHL), which is not a World Anti-Doping Code signatory, he is normally only subject to NHL doping rules, except when competing in events such as the Olympics. Backstrom’s sample contained PSE in greater concentration than the 170 μg/mL permitted under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List, and on 14 March 2014, the IOC Disciplinary Commission ruled that he had committed an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).
Although the IOC allowed Backstrom to keep his silver medal won by the Swedish team at Sochi 2014 due to the circumstances, he filed an appeal with the CAS on 2 April 2014, challenging the finding that he had committed an ADRV. WADA also filed an appeal against a 9 October 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) decision concluding that Backstrom had not violated the World Anti-Doping Code.
Following the withdrawal of Backstrom’s appeal, all parties have agreed that he should be issued with a reprimand, the minimum sanction permitted under the Code. WADA, the IOC and the IHF used a CAS media release to reiterate that Backstrom was taking the substance for medical reasons, hadn’t intended to enhance his performance, had declared the substance on his doping control forms and had relied on the advice of a doctor.
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