A hammer thrower had her two-year drug suspension reduced to four months Monday, handing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a setback in an arbitration case.
An arbitration panel said it found Jessica Cosby's explanation about taking a "water pill" to help her urinate to be believable and that it wasn't taken to enhance her performance.
Cosby's positive test came shortly after she finished seventh at worlds last year. Upon returning home from Germany, she said she had trouble urinating and her mother gave her a pill containing banned diuretics. The next day, she failed a random drug test.
Cosby said her problem stemmed from depression that set in after a series of events leading up to worlds. She found out her fiance cheated on her, she canceled her wedding, her coach quit, and she lost her coaching job at UCLA.
She testified that upon returning home, she was depressed. Her feet were swollen, she felt "puffy" and couldn't urinate. Her mother gave her one of her pills, which Cosby said she took without doing any research because she was desperate.
Typically, an athlete's first failed drug test results in an automatic two-year suspension.
But the arbitration panel reduced the ban, saying it found Cosby's explanation of severe depression to be believable, and that "it does not believe that taking the water pill had anything to do with sport. She was not trying to enhance and she was not trying to mask."
This was a rare setback for USADA, which asserted that athletes are responsible for everything they put in their body, with no excuses allowed.
Founded in 2000, USADA lost its first-ever arbitration case in 2007 when a panel ruled in favor of sprinter LaTasha Jenkins, who had been sanctioned for using the anabolic steroid nandralone. Jenkins' case was overturned. The Cosby case was reduced.
"We have an obligation to ask the obvious questions and point out the evidence," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. "But at the end of the day, it's independent arbitrators who hear the evidence and make decisions. We're satisfied we got the chance to ask the obvious questions and present the case on behalf of clean athletes."