Fleta Page June 08, 2012
Boxer Bianca Elmir is back training at the Stockdale Gym, Dickson after being banned from the Olympics for doping. Photo: Melissa Adams
Banned Canberra boxer Bianca Elmir admits she was naive and ignorant and didn't even know what ASADA stood for before the positive drug test which cost her a place at the London Olympics.
When Elmir was tested for the first time in her life after winning her third national title in Hobart in February, she had never read the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's (ASADA) list of banned substances and had no idea of its testing procedures.
She learned a very quick and harsh lesson when the test came back positive to the diuretics Furosemide and Amiloride, resulting in a ban from the world championships in May and destroying her chance of qualifying for next month's London Olympic Games.
It has been an emotional ride for Elmir, who was in China for the Olympic qualification tournament when she found out - the day before the tournament - that her appeals were unsuccessful and she couldn't box.
''I was put on a plane to come back home on that big long-haul flight, and I knew that my mental health would not be able to cope with that, getting so close, actually physically being in the stadium which I'd put everything towards.''
She diverted to Thailand, where she spent a week with a friend living in the coastal town of Hua Hin. ''He went to work every day and I sat in the room, crying … eating and crying,'' she said.
''I got a bit bored of that. There's only so many chicken satays you can eat, I did that for six days.
''From there I put myself in a [kickboxing] training camp in Pattaya.''
Elmir, 30, only started boxing two years ago to follow an Olympic dream after a successful career in kickboxing, a sport in which she was never tested. She admits she naively entered into a much more regulated environment without checking the regulations.
''I was just going about my business trying to get good at boxing and I didn't tick all the boxes. I was a novice in the sport you know, I just found myself in the elite category because I started getting results. I'm someone who liked boxing, packed my bag, went to Europe, became a good boxer and then found myself in this position.
''I've done this in an unorthodox way. I'm not a traditional athlete that's come up through the ranks through an AIS scholarship or program. I suppose I didn't know what it took to be an elite athlete. There are so many things that are required, it isn't enough just to be good at your sport.''
Elmir has a degree in international studies and development, but the former political adviser says she wasn't educated about banned substances.
''Obviously there are major things you know not to do. Now I've gone into further research, I know there are nasal sprays and creams you're not meant to put on. It's quite intricate what you can and can't do, and now I realise that … obviously too late,'' she said. But she blames only herself for taking the diuretics which she says she took to prevent swollen ankles after a flight from Europe.
''The reality is, I'm the one that did it and this is a huge penalty to pay, this is absolutely heartbreaking,'' she said.
When her case is heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in late July, she could end up with a punishment ranging from a reprimand to a two-year ban.
She hopes to convince CAS she did not take the diuretics - which can be used for weight loss or as a masking agent - to enhance her performance in the 51-kilogram division. ''If I'd taken it a day before my weigh-in, I'd say yeah sure, that was directly influencing my weight, but hand to heart, it honestly was a week earlier.
''I was still doing the same cutting-weight procedures I do any other day, I did my sauna routine … I had to skip and do all of the other things you do on the day of a weigh-in.
''If I did take a diuretic to ensure I was on weight, then I could have just kicked back and weighed myself, but I didn't. It was just a huge error of judgement.''
Whatever the outcome of the CAS hearing, it's too late to resurrect Elmir's Olympic hopes.
''I never knew when you aim so high you can get smashed so low. I made a mistake and I was absolutely slammed for it … I'm grieving the loss of my Olympic dream. I'm so hurt about it. I'm still crushed,'' she said.
Elmir has now vowed to be well armed as she strives to make the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 Rio Olympics. ''The ASADA hotline will be my emergency speed dial, [their] website will be on my quicklinks on my computer, I will carry their brochure in my handbag,'' she said.