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This article was published 12/6/2016 (1384 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The road to Rio may truly be over for Winnipeg archer Jay Lyon, after the sport's governing body upheld a two-year ban for a doping violation.
On Saturday, the World Archery Anti-Doping Panel ruled that Lyon would be suspended from World Archery Federation events until May 19, 2018, after an April doping test returned traces of the banned stimulant oxilofrine. He is also suspended from Archery Canada events and facilities for the same duration.
That means the 30-year-old archer, a 2008 Olympian and one of the best recurve shooters in Canada, can no longer aim for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The Olympic qualifying tournament is set to kick off on Monday in Antalya, Turkey, and Lyon was barred from joining that team following his original suspension.
Lyon's legal team declined to comment on the ruling on Sunday, pending the release of the panel's full decision. They had originally appealed the suspension, which was issued after a secondary sample test on May 19 confirmed the original finding of oxilofrine. That triggered an expedited hearing on June 8.
Last month, Lyon told the Free Press he "never intentionally took anything," pointing out that the stimulant is "certainly not anything that would enhance performance in a precision sport like mine." In fact, he stated, stimulants can produce the opposite effect archers look for in competition.
However, oxilofrine is banned by the World Anti-Doping Association. That fact has not been without controversy. The stimulant is not a controlled substance in North America, and has turned up in over a dozen dietary supplements marked as weight-loss or workout boosters, as well as herbal teas.
As a result, there have been several high-profile cases of athletes being suspended for positive oxilofrine tests, who stated they were unaware they had ingested the substance. One of the most infamous came in 2013, when Olympic sprinter Asafa Powell was suspended for 18 months following his own positive test.
Powell's suspension was later reduced to six months, and he was given the green-light to compete in 2014. The Jamaican runner, a former world record-holder at the 100m and 200m lengths, traced his oxilofrine consumption back to a dietary supplement Epiphany D1, marketed as a memory and energy booster.
In Lyon's case, his test results turned up low levels of oxilofrine, and his team testified before the anti-doping panel that they had traced it back to oranges he had ingested. In an email on Sunday, Lyon called it a "clear highlight of a cross-contaminated product."
"World Archery Anti-Doping knew the facts were true on the levels being found in oranges consumed and they knew that I didn't do anything wrong," he wrote. "But WADA is too stubborn to budge on certain view points, and therefore I have to be the "example" to the other people who intentionally commit far more detrimental doping infractions."
Lyon was supported at the hearing by evidence from University of Winnipeg chemistry professor Charles Wong, who sharply criticized the WADA test protocols.
In a written summary of his scientific opinion shown to the Free Press, Wong called WADA's approach to oxilofrine testing "reprehensible." Among his criticisms was one noting that WADA's lab in Utah did not use oxilofrine, but a closely related amphetamine in its testing protocols, which could hamper the results.
"Careers and reputations are on the line," Wong wrote. "It's worth the effort to have labeled oxilofrine, or other compounds, on hand to confirm concentrations in a way that uses the 'gold standard' and be beyond scientific reproach... WADA is not serving the interests of the athletes by doing analyses that are substandard in the view of the scientific community. They should be."
Even before Lyon's suspension, it wasn't clear that he would compete in Rio. Some spots on the Olympic team are determined by performance, others selected by Archery Canada. Over the last year Lyon earned a 2015 Pan Am Games bronze medal, but also clashed on several occasions with Archery Canada officials.
Last year, he made national headlines when he criticized a decision to exclude 42-year-old archer Kateri Vrakking from the Pan Am Games team, a decision that was later reversed.
Earlier this year, Archery Canada took Lyon to a sport arbitration hearing over critical comments he made about Archery Canada, as well as his failure to adhere to a stated training plan. The organization sought to revoke his national team membership and funding, but an arbitrator determined that would be "too extreme" a sanction.
In both cases, the disputes were resolved and Lyon was made to submit a written apology.
-With files from Randy Turner
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 7:13 PM CDT: Updates with writethru