SYDNEY - World champion kayaker Nathan Baggaley says he feels vindicated despite a decision to ban him for 15 months for the use of performance-enhancing steroids.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has found the dual Olympic silver medallist guilty after testing positive to stanozolol and methandienone in an out-of-competition test in September.
The 29-year-old Baggaley told the hearing the banned substances entered his system unbeknown to him, via a glass of orange juice.
The court accepted that claim and downgraded Baggaley's punishment from two years to 15 months.
"It's been a long couple of months and to be honest the main thing for me is that I wanted to keep my credibility and to have the judge acknowledge that I wasn't a cheat, that I wasn't knowingly taking prohibited substances," Baggaley said.
"I ... still got a sanction but it has been diminished so it's not the full two years so I acknowledge ... that it was a silly mistake, I'll live by it now.
"But the best thing is that I feel I've cleared my name."
All of Baggaley's previous results will stand, including his silver medals in the K1 and K2 500m events at the Athens Olympics.
The ban will not severely affect his Beijing 2008 campaign as he will only miss one season of competition.
"I've been saying for years I'd like a break and I've had 10 years on the Australian team and so a break is overdue," Baggaley said.
"I would have liked to have done it on my terms but maybe at the end of the day I'm going to make this a blessing in disguise, I'm going to have a good break.
"Trust me, the fire is more alive than ever."
A spokesperson for the court said it would not release a statement on the matter until the full judgment was handed down next month.
The three-time world champion in the K1 500m event had told the hearing he drank orange juice contaminated with stanozolol and methandienone but said others were involved.
He admitted this was "freakish".
"It was kind of a combination of things and it does unfortunately involve others and I don't want to involve them at this stage other than to give the outcome that for me tonight has been a relief," he said.
Baggaley added that he accepted the decision to hand down a ban.
"At the end of the day knowing I'm not a cheat," he said.
"I'd like to get nothing but the fact is they take a very firm stance against drugs and drugs in sport.
"And I do have to acknowledge and I'd expect anyone who does cheat to get a firm penalty so I guess I've got to cop something on the chin and I was partially responsible for the position I was put in."
His legal team said they would wait until the full judgment was handed down before deciding whether to appeal.
Surf Life Saving Australia chief executive Greg Nance said it was unlikely his organisation would appeal against the decision, and that 15 months was fair due to the "mitigating" circumstances.
"For Surf Life Saving, Nathan is one of our elite athletes, he's been an exceptional athlete ... for many years and he's also an Olympian.
"I think he has to reflect now on what has happened, it's in the public domain and he has to deal with that, Nance said."