Swimmer Jessica Hardy, who missed the Beijing Olympics because of a doping violation, has been cleared for the London Games after the International Olympic Committee informed her she would not be subject to a contentious rule that threatened her eligibility.
Hardy, a four-time NCAA champion and a world champion in the breaststroke, was banned from the Beijing Games only a few weeks before they started because she tested positive for clenbuterol.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport later ruled that she was not at fault for taking a contaminated dietary supplement. But she still received a one-year suspension, which subjected her to the IOC's "Six Month Rule" that bars any athlete who has been banned for more than half a year from competing in the next Olympics.
Last week, the IOC notified her that she was not subject to the rule because it went into effect so close in time to the positive test. The IOC also looked favorably on the fact that Hardy voluntarily withdrew from the Beijing Olympics while her case was still pending, in hopes of not also having to miss London.
Now she can swim at Olympic trials for a spot on the U.S. team and compete in London.
"I am ecstatic that the IOC has recognized my unique situation, and that this rule does not apply to me," Hardy said in a statement released through her lawyer, Howard Jacobs. "With this final hurdle now behind me, I can now focus 100 percent of my efforts on preparing for and representing my country at next year's Olympic Games, a lifelong dream that was taken away from me in 2008."
News of her reinstatement came Thursday, a day after the IOC and U.S. Olympic Committee agreed to let CAS rule on the validity of the "Six Month Rule," which is viewed by many critics as a rule that penalizes athletes twice for a single doping violation.
American sprinter LaShawn Merritt's Olympic fate will be tied to that decision. Merritt, the defending Olympic and world champion in the 400 meters, is serving a 21-month suspension that ends in July. He would be eligible for the Olympics under that timeline but must wait to see if the CAS upholds the IOC rule.
The IOC and USOC agreed it would be better to figure out this rule well before the Olympics to avoid confusion in the lead-up to trials and the Olympics next year.
Hardy won't even have to wait that long.
"Jessica's obviously thrilled," Jacobs said. "We're happy to be able to close this chapter and know she can prepare for the Olympics without any ambiguities."
As for the rule itself, Jacobs, who also represents Merritt, said, "I think the issue of the validity of the rule being decided by CAS well before the next games is a good thing for everyone."
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the federation welcomed the news about Hardy and didn't expect it to have any effect on the case impacting Merritt.
"We see these as totally separate issues that are unrelated and have no bearing on each other," Sandusky said.