The Olympic dream of Canberra's national champion boxer Bianca Elmir is in tatters after she was slapped with a provisional doping ban just 14 hours before flying to China for the world championships.
As revealed by The Canberra Times online yesterday, Elmir tested positive to a diuretic during February's Australian boxing titles in Hobart and now faces anything from a reprimand to a maximum two-year ban.
A devastated Elmir, now being consoled by friends in Thailand, has told the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority she took the tablet to stop swollen ankles on long flights.
Elmir's coach, Gary Hamilton, staunchly protested her innocence yesterday, insisting she didn't take the substance for performance-enhancing reasons.
The 30-year-old was forced to withdraw from the women's world championships, currently being held in China, after ASADA handed down the provisional ban.
It is believed Elmir was told of the decision the night before flying out for the world championships, meaning her camp had little time to lodge an official appeal to ASADA.
The appeal was unsuccessful, ending her Olympic chances.
Elmir needed to be the highest-placed Oceania competitor to book an Olympic berth, but her withdrawal allowed New Zealander Siona Von Sasson Fernandez to claim the spot.
Elmir had been training in Ireland before the national titles and claims she was given medication from a friend to help her on the flight home.
It is understood the substance in question is on ASADA's prescribed list, meaning it can be taken should an athlete lodge an application to prove that they require it for medical reasons.
''She's taken the substance, that's not denied, but she wasn't aware it was going to do what it did, it wasn't done to help her with her boxing,'' Hamilton said.
''I really believe she's taken it for this medical reason, and only for this medical reason.
''There's two reasons why it's a problem in this case. One is it can be used as a masking agent, and the other issue is it helps you lose weight to make the weight [division].
''But she's never ever needed to make a weight, she wouldn't take steroids … I really believe she's taken it for this medical reason, and only for this medical reason.
''Swollen ankles on flights is hereditary in the family.''
Hamilton said the camp had contacted Elmir's Irish friend, who has agreed to provide evidence on her behalf in an attempt to clear her name.
''There's more than sufficient evidence from the woman in Ireland to say that [masking agent or to lose weight] wasn't the reasons at all,'' Hamilton said. ''She will say 'yes I gave it to her and I accept responsibility', and I understand her doctor's going to say she gave it to her for that purpose [swollen ankles].
''But Bianca obviously did have a part to play because she took it.''
Elmir's place in the 51kilogram division in China was taken by Victorian Kristy Harris, who lost her opening round fight.
Hamilton is unhappy that Boxing Australia ordered Elmir to withdraw from China, fearing even if she qualified for the Olympics she could be banned.
Boxing Australia president Ted Tanner refused to comment about the issue yesterday.
''It's a little bit suspicious what Boxing Australia's done, nobody's going [to the Olympics now],'' Hamilton said. ''They were better off taking a chance on Bianca not getting a penalty I think, but that's in hindsight. But Boxing Australia has to do what ASADA says, otherwise it affects their funding.''
Hamilton, a qualified industrial lawyer, is fuming at ASADA for its procrastination, believing Elmir could still be competing at the Olympics had they addressed the issue earlier.
''It's a complete mess, we've been waiting on ASADA all this time and in hindsight again we should have went straight to CAS [Court of Abitration for Sport],'' Hamilton said.
''We gave them the facts to assure it wasn't performance enhancing, we played ball with ASADA and they procrastinated.
''ASADA are a law unto themselves, they presented Bianca with no evidence whatsoever and there was an argument she wasn't given the principles of natural justice.
''She was given no documentation by ASADA and was basically left up in the air as to what was going on.
''Now she's lost the Olympic spot.''
Hamilton said Elmir will wait until ASADA determines her penalty before deciding whether to take the matter further.
''It depends on how long the ban is, if it's a matter of months why bother because it's going to cost her five grand [to appeal],'' he said.
''She's gone away for a couple of weeks to get her head around it all, but she's not very happy with the way it was handled.
''It could have been handled a bit better by everybody.''
ASADA did not respond to calls from The Canberra Times yesterday.