LONDON • Denmark's Rikke Pedersen retained her 200m breaststroke title at the European Championships on Friday, just hours after it emerged that rival Yuliya Efimova's temporary doping ban had been lifted and that the pair might meet again at the Olympics.
The Russian was banned by governing body Fina after testing positive for meldonium in March and the case will now go straight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The suspension had meant that not only could Efimova not compete but she also could not train under Dave Salo in the United States where rules prevent coaches working with any athlete while they are banned.
Now she is free to train under Salo at the University of Southern California.
The Russian, however, is still staring at a lifetime ban given it was her second doping offence. She had already served a 16-month ban after testing positive for the steroid DHEA in late 2013.
Competing at the Olympics in Rio is now a real possibility, four years after she won bronze in London, with Pedersen locked out by one place in fourth.
The Dane finished second behind Efimova at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona and when the Russian was stripped of her European short-course medals following her first positive test, Pedersen was upgraded to gold in the 200m.
On Friday, the 27-year-old won a controlled race in 2min 21.69sec ahead of Jessica Vall Montero of Spain and Iceland's Hrafnhildur Luthersdottir.
She was reluctant to discuss the Efimova controversy, saying, "I have no comment on that", before hinting when pressed that people generally do not agree with the decision to let the Russian compete for now.
Ruta Meilutyte is another swimmer who has been caught in Efimova's ripple effect.
The Lithuanian Olympic champion was second in the 100m at last year's World Championships after the Russian returned from her ban to compete in front of a home crowd in Kazan.
Her coach Jon Rudd described the decision as "an extraordinary precedent", adding that both he and Meilutyte were losing faith in the governing body which had declared itself robust in the fight against doping.
He told AFP: "Fina has declared through various people in high office it has zero tolerance when it comes to drug offences.
"That is the rhetoric. It has said it clearly and loudly and it has said it quite often.
"Then today you get something that I think - because I don't know what the story is, there is no extra information to go with the decision - I see something today and so does the world, that doesn't stand anywhere near that statement."