By John Haughey
Belfast athlete Gareth Turnbull has been cleared of a doping charge and is free to compete again.
Turnbull didn't learn of the positive test for nine months
Turnbull was facing a possible two-year ban after a drugs test showed up higher than normal levels of testosterone.
The Irish Sport Anti-Doping Panel ruled that Turnbull's elevated testosterone level "as a matter of probability" had been "induced by alcohol".
The drugs test on 30 September last year took place at the end of Turnbull's two-week annual holiday.
On the evening prior to the early morning drugs test at his base in Loughborough, Turnbull had been socialising with friends and the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Panel judgement stated that the athlete had "discharged the necessary burden of proof in the particular and very unusual circumstances of the present case".
The 27-year-old had several tests before and after the 30 September test which showed normal testosterone levels.
The complex and lengthy judgement, which runs to almost 70 A4 pages, said that it "would have been unusual for an athlete to administer testosterone prior to going out on what was intended to be a drinking session".
"For such a high llimit of testosterone to have been found in Mr Turnbull's sample, it would, as a matter of probability have been necessary to ingest the testosterone somethine the previous evening, probably after Mr Turnbull began drinking."
Mr Turnbull has established as a matter of probability that the raised testosterone level alleged the to constituted the anti-doping violation was induced by alcohol
The Irish Sport Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel
The judgement added that the evidenced "weighed against the conclusion that testosterone must have been administered in combination with lutenising hormoneor some unspecified and unidentified drug.
The panel also noted that the "evidence suggesting very clearly that the analyitcal results reported by DCC (Drug Control Centre, Kings College London) in connection with the A sample were difficult to interpret".
Character references from Loughborough coach George Gandy and Turnbull's regular training partner, Irish athlete Mark Carroll was also noted in the panel's judgement.
The panel said that it did "not believe that the papers/studies dealing with the effect of alcohol on testosterone levels would on their own be sufficient in the present case to establish as a matter of probablity that the raised testosterone level was caused by alcohol.
"However, the panel has concluded that when that evidence is considered in conjunction with the other unusual scientific features of the present case and the entirety of the oral evidence including the panel's assessment of the truthfulness of the witnesses, Mr Turnbull has established as a matter of probability that the raised testosterone level alleged the to constituted the anti-doping violation was induced by alcohol."
Turnbull wasn't informed of the positive test until 12 June this year - almost nine months after the original sample was taken.
The Belfast athlete stressed his innocence after being informed of the charge although he made no further comment thereafter.
Close to £100,000 in legal fees have been spent in Turnbull's defence over the last four months and the athlete and his advisors will make strenuous efforts to recoup those costs.
Friday's judgement makes no reference to Turnbull's financial outlay.
The Belfast runner has a 1500m personal best of 3:36.60 set in 2003, the year that he competed in the World Championships.