Jessica Hardy has responded to the news this week of her
positive drug tests.
Associated Press writer Paul Newberry wrote the following
In the final days of training camp with her U.S. Olympic
teammates, Jessica Hardy was trying to nap between practices when
she got the most dreaded of phone calls for any athlete:
She had tested positive for an illicit drug.
“My main emotion at that point was confusion,” Hardy said
Friday. “I had never even heard of this drug.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hardy professed
her innocence and said she has no idea how she tested positive for
Clenbuterol during the U.S. Olympic trials. She also talked
hopefully about getting the ruling overturned in time to compete at
the Beijing Olympics.
“I’m innocent,” said Hardy, who spoke by telephone from
California accompanied by her attorney, Howard Jacobs. “That’s all
I can say to everybody. Whether or not people chose to believe me,
Hardy was tested three times during the trials in Omaha,
Neb., Jacobs said. The results were negative for the samples taken
on July 1, after she won the 100-meter breaststroke, and on July 6,
shortly after she claimed another individual race at the Olympics
by finishing second to Dara Torres in the 50 freestyle.
But Hardy’s “A” and backup “B” samples both came back
positive — for what her attorney said was low amounts of the drug —
from a test on July 4, when she finished fourth in the 100
Clenbuterol is usually prescribed to those with breathing
disorders, such as asthma, and also is well-known in horse racing
circles as a treatment for respiratory ailments. More recently,
it’s been touted as a weight-loss drug.
But it’s also a stimulant that increases aerobic capacity
and the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream, which is why it landed
on the list of banned substances for athletes.
Hardy said she can’t figure out how Clenbuterol wound up
in her system — if, in fact, the test was accurate.
“It’s pretty much the hardest thing in my life that I’ve
ever had to go through,” she said. “I’ve cried every single day
since I found out. I even vomited from anxiety. This is absolutely
the worst time of my life.”
Unless the positive test is overturned through an
expedited arbitration process, Hardy will miss what was supposed to
be her first Olympics and face a mandatory two-year doping
The positive test between two negative tests certainly
will be a major point in Hardy’s appeal.
“I would definitely say it’s unusual,” Jacobs said. “As
far as how it will play into the arbitration case, I don’t know.
But it’s out of the norm.”
The 21-year-old Hardy set a world record in the 100
breaststroke as a high school senior and was a four-time NCAA
champion at the University of California before turning pro last
year. After her performance at the Olympic trials, she was expected
to be a key member of the U.S. women’s team in Beijing with her two
individual events, plus likely spots on the 400 free relay and the
400 medley relay.
Now, her whole life is on hold, though Hardy continues to
train on her own in southern California in hopes that her doping
case will be overturned. The rest of the U.S. team left Friday for
Singapore, where they will hold their final workouts before heading
“My training and my practices are really the only thing I
have control over right now,” she said, shortly after a morning
workout. “Honestly, I’m working as hard as possible. That’s really
the only thing I can do for myself.”
Although swimming has largely avoided major drug scandals,
which have plagued sports such as cycling and track and field,
Hardy knows her name likely will be tarnished forever — no matter
how her case turns out.
She’s now known as a doper.
“That’s one of my worries, but it’s not my main concern.
First, I have to be able to compete,” she said. “I’m just taking it
one day at a time, one hour at a time. I have the same goals, the
same dreams I’ve had my whole career. Those dreams are definitely
still there. But I’m just living moment to moment.”
Jacobs conceded it will be difficult to get the ruling
overturned with the opening ceremonies just two weeks away. He
first will take the case to the American Arbitration Association,
which has yet to set a hearing date. And he’ll ask for an expedited
ruling, so he would have time to take the case to a final authority
— the Court of Arbitration for Sport — if necessary.
CAS will set up a temporary court in Beijing to handle
The preliminaries of the 100 breast — Hardy’s best event —
are scheduled for the evening of Aug. 10. The opening round of the
50 free is Aug. 15.
“If you’re asking me would I like more time, obviously the
answer would be ‘yes,”’ Jacobs said. “Most of these cases are done
over a period of months, not days. But with the Games upcoming,
that, of course, is not an option.”
Hardy is relying on her family for support, and she’s also
gotten hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and test messages urging
her to remain hopeful.
“I’ve been reading them all, and I really appreciate
them,” she said.
Hardy has heard from some of her U.S. teammates, but she’s
tried to stay at a distance because she doesn’t want to be a
“It’s horribly difficult,” Hardy said. “I don’t even know
how to describe it. It’s heartbreaking.”
Although she knows there will be plenty of skeptics, those
who say we’ve heard it all before from drug cheats ranging from
Marion Jones to Floyd Landis, Hardy said her focus is on getting
the ruling overturned.
Getting back her reputation is another matter.
“I just want to say that I’m innocent. I’ve been innocent
my entire career,” she said. “I’ve never wanted to do anything
remotely close to doping. It’s never, ever crossed my mind. I’ve
never been approached about doing it. It’s never been an issue my
“It’s the last thing I would ever do.”
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