Agent Backs Hardy; Appeal To CAS Looms
Craig Lord
Fastest route to freedom for US breaststroke ace is a direct snap appeal to the Court of Arbitration for a final and binding decision. If the case goes against her, US will have just one swimmer in the 100m breast and 50m free in Beijing

No official word as yet on US breaststroke ace Jessica Hardy's alleged positive test but the swimmer's agent, Evan Morganstein (also agent to Amanda Beard, among others) has spoken to news agencies and is standing by his charge.

Hardy told Morganstein: 'I never did anything wrong. I never cheated,', the agent said. He added: 'I'm very, very concerned about the confusion of her test coming up positive-negative-positive. She's the one person I would never believe would do anything - anything - to cheat. Ever.'

Clarity is awaited on whether a positive A sample has been backed up by a positive B sample for what is reported to have been a stimulant. If confirmed as a positive test, the result can be challenged by the 21-year-old Hardy at the American Arbitration Association and the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. The fastest route to freedom if through a direct appeal to CAS. The risk is that any decision would be final and binding and could result in a ban of up to two years. There is no indication, as yet, whether the substance is something that is found in an over-the-counter cold remedy in a country where it is relatively easy to buy at the pharmacy for 'flu and related conditions standard products containing what for athletes are banned substances.

Amid the confusion surrounding Hardy, one thing is for certain: the news the kind of news that SwimNews broke this week, knocks the use of stimulants, innocent or otherwise, into a cocked hat. The Hardy case reminds us of the big issue over Ian Thorpe last year, although there appears to be no suggestion that the swimmer learned of her problem via the media. In that sense, reporting of the case is more legitimate. In Thorpe's case, the WADA Code was clearly broken. We will know soon enough whether that is also the case with Hardy's tale of woe.

Hardy's name was among the 596 athletes officially entered into the Beijing Games on Wednesday by the US Olympic Committee. Hardy earned her place on the team in her best event, the 100m breaststroke (in which she is a medal hope), as well as the 50m free and the 4x100m free.

'I don't think if you had told me a month ago that I would make it in all three of these events that I would have believed you,' she said at the trials. 'I'm expecting good things for sure.'

If Hardy appeals and loses, the US could no longer add a replacement to its team, the deadline of July 21 having gone by. Such an outcome would leave Dara Torres, 41, and Megan Jendrick as the only US swimmers in the 50m free and 100m breast, respectively.

Hardy burst onto the international scene at the 2005 world championships in Montreal, where she broke the world record in the 100 breaststroke semi-final, in 1:06.20. Leisel Jones (AUS) then made an important breakthrough by winning the crown in the final ahead of Hardy.