Close shave for Barber after tryst

Canada's Shawn Barber competing in the men's pole vault final at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The 22-year old was one of the favourites to win gold but finished 10th. Leading up to the Games in August, he tested positive for cocaine and faced a possi
Canada's Shawn Barber competing in the men's pole vault final at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The 22-year old was one of the favourites to win gold but finished 10th. Leading up to the Games in August, he tested positive for cocaine and faced a possible two-year ban.PHOTO: REUTERS

World champion pole vaulter escapes dope ban as he ingested cocaine from kissing online date

TORONTO • Canadian world champion pole vaulter Shawn Barber was at the Rio Olympics despite earlier testing positive for cocaine but the decision to allow him to compete was the right one, Athletics Canada said.

The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada's (SDRCC) ruling was released on Thursday.

It said Barber inadvertently ingested the banned substance during a sexual encounter the night before the Canadian Olympic trials in July with a woman who had taken cocaine. He met her online.

Barber, who set a Canadian record and won the national title the following day, had faced a possible two-year ban imposed by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. But it was ruled no fault or negligence for an anti-doping rule violation by an independent arbitrator.

The International Association of Athletics Federations and World Anti-Doping Agency both reviewed the decision and declined to lodge an appeal.

"Forensic toxicologists have looked at the case and understood... that it was impossible to have taken this amount of cocaine intentionally," Barber's lawyer, Paul Greene, told a conference call.

"You have inadvertent ingestion of cocaine that is passed to an athlete by way of kissing which is exactly what happened."

Considered one of Canada's best bets for a gold medal in Rio, Barber scraped through qualification before finishing 10th.

His hearing was held on Aug 5, the day of the Rio Olympics' opening ceremony, with the decision issued on Aug 11 - just two days before the pole vault competition was due to start. But the 22-year-old insisted the distraction did not impact his performance.

"It was quite an ordeal going into the Olympics but everything worked out the way I think it was supposed to," he said.

Looking to relieve stress the night before the trials in Edmonton, Barber said he posted a Craigslist ad seeking a casual encounter with a woman who was "drug and disease free".

Barber was eventually contacted by a woman and her then-boyfriend and arranged a meeting at a hotel.

The woman admitted during the hearing that she had consumed cocaine and during the encounter with Barber had kissed him several times. She did not inform him that she had taken the drug.

In its decision, the SDRCC said the evidence showed Barber did not know or suspect, and could not have reasonably known or suspected, that he was at risk of ingesting a prohibited substance by kissing.

Barber said his positive test came as a shock but he was glad to have escaped the ban.

"I am happy to have this behind me so that I can move on with my career with a free conscience," he said in a statement released via Athletics Canada.

"This is a learning experience that I hope other athletes can learn from as I have."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Close shave for Barber after tryst'. Print Edition | Subscribe