By Greg Johnson in Sydney, Australia
Australia's Nathan O'Neill is satisfied with the outcome of his Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) appeal, which sees him able to return to the sport on November 12. O'Neill will return to the United States of America on Monday, where he will begin training and start to focus contract negotiations for the 2009 season.
O'Neill tested positive for the stimulant Phentermine in an in-competition test on August 12, 2007, during the Tour of Elk Grove in the USA. While the eight-time Australian Time Trial Champion is allowed to use the appetite suppressant out of competition, traces of the substance remained in his system during the event.
"I am [satisfied], I admitted my mistake, I've paid my penalty," said O'Neill. "I think it's more than fair, so I'm prepared to take it and move on."
CAS determined that O'Neill had been able to demonstrate a degree of no significant fault or negligence and thereby imposed a lesser penalty of 15 months.
O'Neill admitted he was frustrated with yesterday's announcement to the media he'd been handed a 15-month suspension by CAS. The rider was actually served the maximum penalty of 24 months by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, with yesterday's CAS appearance an appeal by O'Neill over the little publicised initial sanction.
A press release from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) said it would now review the case in conjunction with the International Cycling Union (UCI) and Cycling Australia. An ASADA spokesperson told Cyclingnews.com that the case is still being reviewed and no decision had been made as to whether there's any cause for the body to lodge an appeal of yesterday's findings or not.
"My version of events matched up with that of their key expert witnesses, everything lined up," said O'Neill. "There was no disagreement there."
O'Neill wasted little time getting back on the bike after the CAS decision, with the rider undergoing power-output testing today. The Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist is looking forward to reuniting with his wife and daughter in the USA next week.
He has struggled to put together more than one week of continuous training since testing positive last year, he said. With the CAS appeal now behind him, O'Neill said he's looking forward to getting back on the bike and competing again.
"I'm really motivated, more than ever," he said. "It's been a good thing in a strange way from that perspective. I've got six months to get ready, so I don't expect to have any problems being ready [for my return]." O'Neill indicated the results of today's power-output testing look good, considering the time he's been away from the sport.
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