Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Boxer fights Games dope ban

The Australian

by Natasha Robinson

A CHAMPION young Aboriginal boxer was hopeful last night that he could overturn a decision banning him from fighting at the Commonwealth Games after a court found he unwittingly and passively inhaled marijuana smoke.National lightweight titleholder Anthony Little, who tested positive for cannabis after he won gold at the Commonwealth Games selection trials in Melbourne, told the Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday that five days before the event, his two cousins smoked bongs in the car as the three travelled to an outback football game.

Little - who won gold despite boxing with a broken knuckle in his dominant hand - also told the court his father smoked cannabis in his Perth hotel room two weeks before the selection trials.

The court heard Little's father was a former alcoholic who used to wake the then 12-year-old Little at night to help him commit burglaries in his home town of Geraldton, four hours north of Perth.

Arbitrator John Winneke QC yesterday found Little was "an honest and fine young man" and ruled that the 25-year-old did not actively ingest marijuana, was not aware the substance was banned and that his "use" of cannabis in no way enhanced his performance when he won gold at the selection trials in August.

Little's barrister, Terry Forrest QC, said Boxing Australia should amend their selection criteria to allow Little - who many regard as Australia's best amateur boxer - to compete at the Games, which begin in Melbourne on March 15.

Mr Forrest said he would draft a submission asking Boxing Australia to amend their selection rules in the same way that the Australian Shooting Association did to allow Michael Diamond to compete at the 2004 Athens Olympics after being ruled ineligible for the first two rounds of selection trials. Diamond's gun licence had been suspended pending a court hearing on charges he had assaulted his then girlfriend and failed to secure one of his firearms properly. Both charges were later dismissed.

"The fact that, through bad luck, the best boxer in his division is in danger of being excluded is a matter of real concern," Mr Forrest said. "Anthony Little is a role model for thousands of Aboriginal children. His immediate future is in the hands of Boxing Australia."

Boxing Australia said yesterday it would consider Little's bid. "We want the best athletes in our team at the Commonwealth Games but the other side of the story is that we've set selection criteria - we've set an anti-doping policy," acting chief executive Simon Thompson said.

Coach Geoff Peterson said that since Little had tested positive for cannabis, the boxer's sponsors had abandoned him and he was almost bankrupt.

"He catches a bus to come to Perth to train - it's six hours on a bus from Geraldton," Mr Peterson said. But he added: "I won't give up on him."


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