Hunter-Galvan in drugs shock

BY STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2009

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The Sunday Star-Times can today name marathon runner Liza Hunter-Galvan as the Olympic athlete facing a Sports Disputes Tribunal hearing over what is believed to be a failed doping test.

Last night, Hunter-Galvan was consulting lawyers after being summoned to a tribunal hearing and friends of the runner said she was distraught, distressed and feared a career-ending ban if they found her guilty of doping.

Hunter-Galvan has contacted the Sunday Star-Times but said she could not comment. She did not deny she was facing a hearing in relation to a failed doping test. The Kiwi athletics community has been abuzz over suggestions an Olympian had returned an adverse finding in a drugs test. This week, several senior athletics figures told the Star-Times the athlete in question was Hunter-Galvan. Those close to her say she engaged lawyers late this week to represent her at a forthcoming hearing.

The Star-Times understands the sample in question was not given at the Beijing Games, where she ran 35th in the marathon after taking Athletics New Zealand to a disputes hearing after they had initially refused her selection despite running an A standard time.

Hunter-Galvan, who turned 40 last month, is at home in San Antonio, Texas, after a brief break in Los Angeles. She's not competing at the moment anyway, having asked selectors not to pick her for August's world championships team despite qualifying to run and earlier submitting nomination papers. Sources said that had nothing to do with her forthcoming hearing.

It's also thought she had been considering retiring anyway to concentrate on her family and her old career as a science teacher.

Hunter-Galvan left Auckland as a teenager to pursue an athletic scholarship in the US. She was a regular Kiwi representative, appearing at the 2004 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games and competed at Beijing despite serious personal trauma. A car crash in February 2007 left her 13-year-old daughter Amber with a fractured skull, in a lengthy coma and then later with 90% memory loss.

Less than a year after that accident, Hunter-Galvan ran a personal best 2hr 30min at the Amsterdam marathon, well inside the 2hr 37min Olympic standard but was declined selection by Athletics New Zealand, who pointed to poor past performances for their assertion that they did not think she was capable of a top-16 finish. But Hunter-Galvan engaged lawyer Bill Nash and district court judge Bert Richardson to fight her case and won.

There are reasons why the athletics world has known for some time about the case but it has not emerged publicly. Because the disputes tribunal is a quasi-legal court, those involved are bound by contempt rules and cannot say anything publicly. Athletics New Zealand chief executive Scott Newman, Drug Free Sport chief executive Graeme Steel and Sports Disputes Tribunal secretary Brent Ellis all refused to comment and Ellis would not confirm even if Hunter-Galvan was due before the panel.

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The process for athletes facing drugs hearings is that if their A sample contains a banned substance, their governing body Athletics NZ is usually forced by its own rules to immediately apply to the tribunal for a provisional ban, which is kept private.

The athlete can demand the B sample be tested before a full hearing of the tribunal considers the case. If that sample is also positive, the process is made public plus any penalty.

- Sunday Star Times

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