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Disgraced Canadian swim coach could have ban lifted in three years

Swin coach Cecil Russell speaks to his son Colin poolside at the Commomwealth Games trials in Victoria, BC on November 24, 2005.

Diana Nethercott/The Globe and Mail

Cecil Russell, the controversial swim coach involved in steroid and ecstasy rings who also admitted to helping burn the dead body of a drug associate, could be allowed back on the pool deck in three years, perhaps less.

The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada ruled Thursday that Russell would remain banned for three years for breaching the restrictions and having "put a scheme in place" to continue coaching swimmers. This included "writing out training routines prior to Oakville Dolphins practices and advising and meeting members of the club about their performances at swim meets."

For doing that, arbitrator Richard McLaren ruled Russell should remain banned until Sept. 9, 2015 at the latest. He could be reinstated sooner providing he "abides by both the absolute letter of the ban and the spirit of what the ban stands for and intends to accomplish."

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Russell was first banned in 1997 for his involvement in an international steroid ring. He later testified in a murder trial in which he admitted helping dispose of a dead body. He then pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possession with intent to distribute ecstasy and spent four years in prison in Spain and the U.S.

In reviewing Russell's latest application to have his coaching ban lifted, the SDRCC determined he had to wait another three years since "current rules provide much shorter penalties for drug trafficking violations," according to Swimming Canada.

In an issued release, Swimming Canada CEO Pierre Lafontaine said: "This is a situation we take very carefully. While we recommended a lifetime ban be upheld against Mr. Russell, we respect that due process was followed … We will continue to do everything in our power to make the pool deck a safe, value-driven environment for Swimming Canada members of all ages."

Russell, whose son Colin and daughter Sinead competed in the swim competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, is to stay away from any competition or activity sanctioned by Swimming Canada or any of is affiliated clubs.

Should he follow those restrictions, Russell could help coach his son and daughter in the lead up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Russell has 30 days to appeal his latest ban. Swimming Canada said it is reviewing the SDRCC ruling with its legal counsel.

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