SCOTS skier Alain Baxter today lost his battle to retain his Olympic bronze medal.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport described him as a “a sincere and honest man who did not intend to obtain a competitive advantage in the race”. And they accepted he had not knowingly taken a banned substance, but said they could not give him back his medal.
The 28-year-old, known as The Highlander, said he was “gutted” by the ruling.
But he said even though the decision was “strict and tough”, his biggest relief was that “they had cleared my name, that I’m not classed as a cheat”.
The decision was immediately condemned by his supporters as a shameful attempt by sports chiefs to save face.
The International Olympic Committee stripped Baxter of his third place medal in the slalom – Britain’s first-ever for skiing – after he tested positive for the banned substance methamphetamine following the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Baxter insisted he only inhaled a US version of Vick’s nasal spray, which happened to contain methamphetamine – unlike the British version which does not – during the games in February.
Methamphetamine can act as a powerful stimulant, but Baxter maintained the inhaler had no performance-enhancing benefits.
The arbitration court today upheld the IOC’s ruling but said they had found Mr Baxter’s story to be “sincere and compelling”.
Scottish Nationalist MSP Margo MacDonald was outraged at the decision. She said: “They are absolutely wrong to have attempted to save their own face and reputation in this way.
“The test that was applied to Alain Baxter, according to every scientist and doctor who has commented on it, was unfair in that it didn’t draw any distinction between speed amphetamine and the component which can be used safely and quite legally in the Vick’s inhaler used by Alain Baxter in the States.
“It is quite shameful that any athlete’s reputation can be ruined in this way.”
British Olympic Association chief executive Simon Clegg added in a statement: “Alain has paid a most severe penalty for a modest mistake and it is clear that the principle of strict liability underscored this decision.”
Today’s news is a bitter blow for Baxter, who had been optimistic after winning a separate appeal against the length of suspension imposed by the International Ski Federation.
He told reporters at a hotel in Aviemore of his disappointment at the appeal decision. He said: “I am gutted that I am not getting my medal back but there are a lot of positive things to come out of it.”
He said he knew he had a lot of support from professionals and members of the public during his appeal and hoped the IOC would change its rules in light of his controversial case.
When asked if he could win an Olympic medal again, he smiled: “I can’t promise it but I’ll try my best.”
The skier said he would now try to get on with his life and was looking forward to competing. “At the moment my skiing is going well and I’m in good shape. I am looking forward to a good season.”
Asked by a reporter if he had used a Vick’s inhaler since the Olympics he said: “I have not taken it since the States, neither version.”
Baxter stunned the world by taking third place in the slalom at Salt Lake City but was stripped of his bronze medal on the decision by the International Olympic Committee in March. Under the IOC’s strict liability rule, athletes are deemed responsible for any banned substance found in their body, regardless of the circumstances.
Baxter maintained that, unlike the British version of the inhaler, which had been cleared by his medical advisers, the version he bought in the US contained a mild form of methamphetamine, of which he was unaware.