12th February 2020

Two year ban issued to World Record swimmer

The international swimming federation (FINA) has sanctioned Rūta Meilutytė with a two year ban for three ‘whereabouts’ failures in a 12 month period. The FINA Doping Panel Decision (PDF below) indicates that FINA’s requirement to charge the Lithuanian, who is understood to have fought depression, may have contributed to a May 2019 decision to retire at the age of 22.

The 100m breaststroke (short course) World Record holder outlined that three missed tests (22 April 2018; 19 August 2018; and 28 March 2019) were her fault. ‘I take full responsibility for the missed tests’, she replied to FINA in a 17 April email. ‘I’ve been on Adams for the last 7 years of my swimming career and always took a responsibility as an athlete to promote clean sport, never got a positive test. Last year I was traveling a lot my two missed tests happened on April 2018 and March 2018 as I was traveling from one country to another. August 2018 I was having time off after main summer competitions, I was traveling in Lithuania and I failed to update the whereabouts correctly. 

‘I kindly ask you to consider my situation. If 12 month suspension is given to me I could still pursue my goal to compete at Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which is probably going to be my last olympics. I would be grateful if I could still have the opportunity to go to Tokyo.’

On 30 April 2019, FINA formally charged Meilutytė, after which she announced her retirement. She had already admitted fault for the missed tests, which means that she couldn’t benefit from any reduction from the two year ban mandated by Articles 2.4 and 10.3.2 of FINA’s Doping Control Rules, ruling her out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

On 28 June, she informed FINA about her decision to retire. On 21 July, the FINA Anti-Doping Panel held its hearing in her absence.

‘It is the FINA Doping Panel’s position that the athlete was very slack with the management of the information relevant to her whereabouts, but that no evidence pointed to any pattern, nor did the Athlete, who has the burden of presenting evidence to the Panel to obtain a reduced sanction, provide any explanation which the Panel could consider as rebutting a pattern which could allow it to envisage a reduced sanction’, reads the Decision. ‘Pursuant to FINA DC 10.11, the period of ineligibility shall start on the date of the final hearing decision providing for ineligibility, as none of the situations in FINA 10.11 et seq. are fulfilled in this case’. Therefore, FINA’s sanction runs from 21 July 2019 until 21 July 2021.

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