Despite issuing repeated proclamations of her innocence over the past week, Jessica Hardy withdrew from the U.S. Olympic swim team tonight ten days after receiving word that she tested positive for clenbuterol, a prohibited anabolic steroid agent. Kara Lynn Joyce and Rebecca Soni will take Hardy's spots in the 50-meter free and 100-meter breaststroke, respectively.
This is a somewhat strange end to a bizarre saga. Hardy's positive test came on July 4, but wasn't announced until July 24. That 20-day lag prevented more-deserving swimmers from filling Hardy's spots on the swimming roster. Instead, the U.S. swim team will replace Hardy with the next-fastest women who had already qualified in different events (Joyce and Soni).
Equally interesting is that Hardy and her attorney repeatedly announced plans to appeal the tests in front of an arbitration board, but declined to do so this evening. Instead, Hardy announced her withdrawal from the Beijing Games. Hardy did so "to avoid a circus", but chances are the decision to withdraw was based more on the fact that she knew she didn't have a prayer of winning. At least she wasn't going to drag the ship down with her.
I sort of feel bad for Hardy. She was embroiled in a drug scandal that nobody cared about because it came out after the Olympic Trials. Had Hardy gone to the Olympics, won the 100-breaststroke (she was a top contender) and then tested positive -- now that would have been worth at least one movie on Lifetime and an appearance on Oprah. Bad timing all around.