Upheld bans to keep stars at home

  • 2012-04-11
  • By Jared Grellet

JUICED UP: Zivile Balciunaite is paying the price on high testosterone levels.

PASVALYS - One leading Lithuanian female athlete has failed in her attempt to overturn a ban restricting her from competing for Lithuania at the Olympics in London this summer, whilst a former Lithuanian is reportedly set to challenge her ban from competing for Russia.

European marathon champion Zivile Balciunaite last week learned that the Swiss-based Arbitration for Sport will uphold a two year ban handed down on the runner by the Lithuanian Athletics Federation on April 5, 2011. In a brief statement released on April 2, the Arbitration confirmed that, “The Lithuanian Athletics Federation’s decision of April 5, 2011 has been confirmed.”

The ban was dished out to the then 32-year-old just two days after her birthday as a result of a positive test she gave, revealing abnormal levels of testosterone following her European title win in Barcelona in July 2010.
Despite the official ban being announced in April of last year, the two-year sentence was backdated to October 2010, the time in which Balciunaite’s failed test results first became known, meaning the ban will come to an end less than a month after the marathon is competed for in London.

Balciunaite has always stated her innocence, claiming that the abnormal level of testosterone was as a result of some medication given to the athlete by her gynacologist.
In winning the European Championships, Balciunaite became the first Lithuanian woman to win a medal in a running discipline at a major event and also the first woman from her country to claim a gold medal at the European Championships.

At the Athens Olympics in 2004, the Vilnius native finished 14th before improving that result to 11th four years later in Beijing.

With one appeal denied, another is just about to begin if reports out of Russia last week are to be believed.
According to RIA Novosti, former Lithuanian pentathlete Donata Rimsaite is also set for a trip to the Arbitration for Sport to appeal a decision made by the Lithuanian Olympic Committee back in January to block her from competing for Russia in London after the athlete opted to claim Russian citizenship in 2011 when she married a Russian man.

In the vote, the Lithuanian Olympic Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor, 49-to-one, of vetoing the newly wed Rimsaite from appearing in Russian colors in London. Under current provisions, a national Olympic Committee can veto an athlete who switches allegiances to compete for another country at the Olympics, within three years of the said athlete changing their nationality.

The 24-year-old represented Lithuania in Beijing in 2008, finishing 13th before going on to have the most successful period of her career, winning the World Cup final in 2008 and 2009, as well as finishing third at the European Junior Championships in 2009.
In more recent events, Rimsaite’s form has slumped and, as it stands, the former Lithuanian would be at best an outside chance of medalling in London.

The Russian modern pentathlon governing body are now prepared to take the case to Switzerland but are hoping that the issue can be solved prior to that with the head of the Russian Modern Pentathlon Agency, Vyacheslav Aminov, telling RIA Novosti that he is optimistic that the International Olympic Committee will overturn the ban in May.

“A legal application to the court to change the Lithuanian Olympic Committee’s decision has already been prepared by serious Swiss lawyers, but whether it will be submitted depends on whether the IOC executive committee will consider the matter in May,” Aminov was reported as saying in RIA Novosti, adding, “If we understand that this will happen, then Rimsaite won’t go to court. If we understand that the IOC won’t look at the case, then Rimsaite will take legal action.”
The case, if overturned, could set a bad precedent for other small countries such as Lithuania who, on limited budgets, spend considerable funding on assisting athletes to reach their peak, only for those athletes to then leave and leave them with the bad taste of a wasted investment.