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IPC Swimming Championships

July 3, 2011

Paralympic champion Heather Frederiksen has more than just winning medals on her mind ahead of this week’s IPC European Swimming Championships in Berlin.

The 25-year-old from Leigh was one of the darlings of the GB team at the Beijing Games in 2008, winning a gold, two silvers and a bronze.

But things started to go wrong for her at the 2009 European Championships in Iceland when she suffered a severe asthma attack after one of her races.

In May 2010, the International Paralympic Committee announced that she had been given a six-month ban, backdated to October 2009, after she had tested positive for a raised level of the drug Salbutamol following the incident.

Although Frederiksen had been cleared to use her asthma inhaler, the levels of the drug found in her body were higher than those permitted for medical reasons.

After missing out on last year’s World Championships in Eindhoven, Frederiksen returns to the big stage in Germany, keen to put down a marker ahead of London 2012 and have people focus on her ability in the pool.

“Salbutamol is a drug which helps asthmatics and it needs to be taken in chronic situation and the situation in Iceland was a chronic one. I could possibly have died if I hadn’t taken my inhaler,” she told BBC Sport.

“It was a situation where I did what I had to do to save my life and I would do it again. I was having an asthma attack and I couldn’t breathe. I was in fear for my life.

“Hopefully people will see it was a potential life or death situation. I know I’m not a cheat and I know I can go into a pool with a clear conscience knowing I didn’t take something I wasn’t supposed to take.

“When I heard about the ban I was devastated because I knew I hadn’t taken anything I shouldn’t have. I understand the rules but it was something I had to do to save my life.”

Frederiksen, who suffered an accident five years ago that left her with reduced mobility down the right side of her body, is the fastest woman in Europe in her S8 category in the 100m backstroke, 50m freestyle and 400m backstroke and will be hoping to come away with more medals.

“I want to go out and do what I normally do and win and have people talking about gold medals rather than drug tests,” she added.

“Considering I’ve struggled with my asthma all year I don’t think my training times have been too bad. My competition times have been strong and I’m still ranked in the top times in the world so I’m going out to give it a good go.

“I want to go as close as I can to my personal bests and to go and race hard and fast which will be a good stepping stone towards next year’s Paralympic trials and the Games themselves.”

The 40-strong GB team, which includes experienced campaigners like Matt Walker, Ellie Simmonds, Stephanie Millward and Liz Johnson will expect to top the medal table in Berlin in the last major international test before the London Paralympics.

There are also high hopes for newcomers like Susie Rodgers, who will be hoping to make an impact in her S7 category, Preston teenager Jack Bridge and Oliver Hynd, who joins elder brother Sam in the squad.

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