HONG KONG (Reuters) - Two lifetime drug bans could not stop Eric Lamaze from realizing his Olympic dream on Thursday as the Canadian captured the show jumping gold after two jump-offs.
Thrown off the Canadian team for the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Games after testing positive for cocaine on two separate occasions, Lamaze was back in the saddle in Beijing and on top of the podium after beating Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson in a second jump-off.
There was a time, however, when it appeared Lamaze’s career was crashing to earth rather than taking off.
The Canadian first tested positive for cocaine in 1996 and was suspended from competition for four years, including during the Atlanta Games.
This was later reduced to seven months after he successfully appealed against the penalty, arguing he had used the drug for personal, not performance-enhancing, reasons.
He was given a lifetime ban just before the 2000 Olympics in Sydney for consuming two banned substances found in cold remedies and a diet supplement.
This ban was overturned after his lawyer argued that the items had not been properly labeled.
During the time he was banned he again tested positive for cocaine, which he admitted he had taken in a cigarette during a party, and was given a second lifetime ban.
He successfully appealed against that ban on the grounds that the drug was used at a time when he was under a lifetime ban and was therefore irrelevant.
“When you give people chances and allow them to come back from their mistake, great things happen and I‘m a perfect example,” Lamaze told CBC after winning his gold. “You shouldn’t give up on people and people can still do great things in their lives, it doesn’t matter what’s happened.”
It was Lamaze’s second medal of the Beijing Games, the 40-year-old having already shared in the silver won by Canada in the team jumping event.
Additional reporting by James Pomfret and Scott Anderson, writing by Steve Keating