Canadian wheelchair athlete and Olympic champion Jeff Adams will appeal a ruling banning himfrom competition for two years after testing positive for cocaine at the 2006 wheelchair marathon championships in Ottawa.
The independent arbitrator's ruling also means that the Toronto-based Adams is ineligible to receive federal sport funding for life, the Canadian Centre for Ethics announced on Tuesday.
It was a stunning result for Adams, one of the most successful wheelchair athletes in history.He isa six-time world champion who has appeared in three Olympics and five Paralympics, beginning with Seoul in 1988.
The 36-year-old Paralympian said the positive test was the result of a contaminated catheter, used after an incident at a Toronto nightclub on May 21, 2006, seven days before the Ottawa race.
"I'm entirely supportive of eliminating cheating and eliminating performance-enhancing substances in sport, but I'm having trouble reconciling that with the facts of this case," Adams said at a news conference on Tuesday.
The test revealed the presence of three nanograms per millilitreof the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine.
Adams can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, but his lawyer, Tim Danson, said key aspects of the case weremore appropriatelythe jurisdictionof Canadian courts.
Danson charged that the CCES has a legal obligation to provide clean catheters to the small number of athletes that need them.
As such, he said, they failed to reasonably accommodate Adamsaccording toSection 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"An able-bodied athlete would never be confronted with this problem," Danson said.
Danson rejected the arbitrator Richard H. McLaren's ruling that CCES is a non-profit private corporation not directed by the government and therefore not subject to Charter challenges.
Dansonsaid the matter would be appealed to Ontario's SuperiorCourt ofJustice as well asprovincial and federal human rights commissions.
The suspension expires August 18, 2008, less than one month before the Beijing Olympics, leaving the athlete's career in limbo.
Woman put cocaine in his mouth, says Adams
Adams claimed that an unknown woman inserted cocaine into his mouth at the nightclub. Two witnesses testified on his behalf that there was an immediate commotion at the Vatikan Club, but neither saw the alleged offence.
Adams, who needs to self-catheterize, testified that the only catheter he had at the Ottawa race was the one used immediately after the club incident.
The arbitrator rejected Adams's arguments of discrimination on the grounds that CCES failed to offer a sterile catheter to him and failed to advise him of the importance of using a clean catheter.
McLaren said Adams had used his own catheters throughout his career and did not request one or voice his concern regarding the nightclub incident to officials before the event in Ottawa.
Scientific experts testified on the likelihood that a catheter contaminated with dried urine from a previous use could lead to the offence. Adams had said that the cost of the catheters meant that he didn't dispose of them after a single use, and admitted they weren't always thoroughly cleaned.
McLaren concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, the evidence failed to demonstrate that contamination caused the offence.
"At any time, when there's a positive test, it impacts athletics," Joanne Mortimore, the CEO of Athletics Canada, said on Tuesday. "As far as the implications for athletes with a disability, I think it's the same as a high performance athlete that's tested positive."
A distinguished Paralympian
Adams is perhaps the best-known Paralympian in Canadian history.
After winning 800-metre gold at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, he won two gold, one silver and two bronze at the Sydney Games four years later. His time in the 800 metres in Sydney was an Olympic record and earned him a place as a Canadian Athlete of the Year finalist.
He has competed in distances ranging from 200 metres to marathon length in his nearly two-decade career, an unmistakable sight with hisextensivetattoos and red hair.
Adams began competing not long after radiation treatment for a childhood bout with cancer damaged his spinal cord and put him in a wheelchair.
He has climbed the Acropolis in Greece and CN Tower in Toronto to help raise awareness of accessibility issues, and has also served as a motivational speaker and ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation.