Defamation payout for Australian track rider French
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Defamation payout for Australian track rider French

by Conal Andrews at 5:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

Former junior world champion and Beijing 2008 Olympian Mark French has won his defamation case against the Herald and Weekly Times, nearly six years after the Herald Sun newspaper published two articles labelling him a ‘disgraced drug cheat.’

The 25 year old was awarded $175,000 AUS in damages by the Supreme Court judge David Beach, and said afterwards that the decision allowed him to get on with his life.

"It's been a long five years and I'm glad I've done it because the whole process has been about vindicating my name, and undoing all the wrong that was done to me. I'm glad it's all over," he told reporters, according to the AAP.

“It’s finished on a positive note and I can move on with my life.”

The payout follows a larger award of $350,000 plus costs given in 2008 when he successfully sued the radio station Triple M. He had been described as a "dirty, stinking, dobbing cyclist,” during a broadcast.

French landed in hot water in 2004 when cleaners found ampoules labelled EquiGen (equine-derived growth hormone), syringes and vitamins outside his room at the Australian Institute of Sport. Testing of the syringes found traces of the EquiGen hormone in some of them.

He had a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport and there gave sworn evidence that four other riders had injected themselves once or twice a week in his room. He named Shane Kelly, Sean Eadie, Jobie Dajka and Graeme Brown as those concerned.

He was banned from cycling for two years and received a lifetime ban from the Olympics. However this was overturned on appeal in 2005 due to a lack of evidence, and French was told that he could return to competition.

He had missed the 2004 Games because of the temporary ban but made the Australian squad for the 2008 Olympics. He was 4th in the team sprint there, and 13th in the individual competition.

French has since given up competitive cycling and now works as a personal trainer.

Dajka was the only other rider suspended in the case. He was given a ban for lying about having received injections, and later incurred another ban for assaulting Martin Barras. He received treatment for depression and alcoholism, and sadly was found dead at home in April of last year.

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