By Tom Degun

WADA ball_8_MayMay 8 - Liberian powerlifter James Siaffa has been hit with a three-month ban by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for taking a probibited painkiller that he declared on his doping control form before competing at an elite event earlier this year.

Siaffa showed illegal levels of Prednisone and Prednisolone in a urine sample provided in February during the FAZZA International Powerlifting Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with both substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

During an IPC anti-doping hearing, the 27-year-old explained that he took the painkiller because he believed he had dislocated his shoulder and had visited a pharmacist in Liberia for medication to relieve the pain.

In a supporting letter, the pharmacist in question explained that he had prescribed medications to the athlete for his therapeutic use to help the shoulder pain.

The letter also revealed that Siaffa had asked whether the medications were legal for competition.

The pharmacist checked and did not find them detailed on the Prohibited List; the pharmacist then told Siaffa that the substances were not banned, the hearing was told.

The hearing panel ruled that Siaffa must serve a three-month suspension, reduced from two years, for the offence, beginning on March 26 – the date when he was originally notified of his violation.

All the results Siaffa accrued from the date of the competition on February 25 and onwards will be scrubbed from official records along with the forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.

However, the usual financial sanction has not been imposed and, crucially, Siaffa will be eligible to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

"The hearing panel was comfortably satisfied with the explanation that the athlete took the substance for therapeutic use and not with the intention to improve his performance," said IPC Anti-Doping Committee chair Dr Toni Pascual.

"Although the athlete had no Therapeutic Use Exemption [authorisation] to justify the substances in his system, he had informed the doping control officers at the time of his test that he had taken some medication.

"The evidence from the pharmacist was also vital in our decision-making process as he revealed that the athlete, in the absence of having qualified National Paralympic Committee (NPC) medical support staff to consult about medication, had tried to take necessary steps to ensure his medicines were not on the Prohibited List.

"Taking everything into account, the standard sanction, of two years ineligibility and a fine, was reduced.

"A sanction was still imposed, however, as the IPC anti-doping code clearly states that an athlete is strictly responsible for any prohibited substances found in their samples."

Dr Pascual concluded: "The IPC looks forward to working with NPC Liberia and Mr Siaffa to educate other athletes in his community and to raise awareness about anti-doping in Paralympic sport."

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