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Sha’Carri Richardson, a Track Sensation, Tests Positive for Marijuana
Richardson, a gold-medal favorite in the women’s 100 meters, was suspended for a month, putting in doubt an appearance at the Tokyo Olympics.
The American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was set for a star turn at the Tokyo Olympics this month, could miss the Games after testing positive for marijuana.
Richardson, 21, won the women’s 100-meter race at the U.S. track and field trials in Oregon last month, but her positive test automatically invalidated her result in that marquee event.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency announced the positive test result Friday morning, and said Richardson had accepted a suspension of one month, starting on June 28. That could clear her in time to run in the 4x100 meter relay that takes place later in the Games — if she is named to the U.S. team.
In an interview with NBC on Friday, Richardson blamed the positive test on her use of marijuana as a way to cope with the unexpected death of her biological mother while she was in Oregon for the Olympic trials. Richardson, who was raised by her grandmother, said she learned about the death from a reporter during an interview and called it triggering and “definitely nerve-shocking.”
“It sent me into a state of emotional panic,” she said, adding, “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
She apologized to her fans, her family and her sponsors, saying, “I greatly apologize if I let you guys down, and I did.”
Did a Burrito Cost an American Runner Her Olympic Dream?
Shelby Houlihan, a medal favorite, will miss the U.S. Olympic trials after she tested positive for a banned steroid. She has blamed a food-truck meal.
Shelby Houlihan, who was hoping to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, blamed a pork burrito for a positive drug test that resulted in a four-year suspension.
Years of training and preparation to reach the Tokyo Olympics are out the window for Shelby Houlihan, an American runner, because of a positive drug test.
She says a pork burrito is to blame.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a four-year suspension that took effect on Monday for Houlihan, who holds American records for 1,500- and 5,000-meter races and tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. The court’s move finalized a decision that worked its way through track and field’s antidoping system as Houlihan unsuccessfully argued that pork from a burrito she purchased at a food truck near her home in Beaverton, Ore., led to her positive test in December.
“I feel completely devastated, lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed by the very sport that I’ve loved and poured myself into just to see how good I was,” Houlihan, 28, said in an Instagram post that shared details about her suspension.
The suspension disqualifies Houlihan from the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., which are scheduled to begin on Friday, and means she cannot earn a spot in the Tokyo Games beginning late July.
Houlihan said she was informed of her test result on Jan. 14 by the Athletics Integrity Unit, which manages drug testing for World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field.
“When I got that email, I had to read it over about ten times and google what it was that I had just tested positive for,” she said in the post. “I had never even heard of nandrolone.”
She made a list of all the food she consumed the week of Dec. 15, when the drug test was done, and eventually concluded that the burrito — eaten about 10 hours before her sample was taken — led to the positive test.
“Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone,” she said, adding that her attempts to establish her innocence, including a polygraph test and having a sample of her hair tested by a toxicologist, were not successful.
Brett Clothier, head of the Athletics Integrity Unit, said Houlihan’s case was handled properly according to guidance from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“After being charged by the AIU, Ms. Houlihan’s case was heard by a three-member panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which made its decision after hearing evidence and arguments from the athlete’s lawyers and the AIU,” Clothier said in an email. The Court of Arbitration for Sport, he added, informed his agency that it planned to share its grounds for upholding the suspension soon.
Houlihan made her first Olympic team in 2016, when she placed 11th in the women’s 5,000-meter final. In July 2020, during an intrasquad club meet, she improved her American record with a time of 14 minutes 23.92 seconds in the 5,000 meters. At the 2019 world championships, she ran the 1,500 meters in 3:54.99, for fourth place and an American record.
Houlihan is not the first athlete to blame positive tests on things that are clearly not performance-enhancing drugs. Some athletes have tested positive for traces of banned substances in antidepressants, different types of meat and even from substances transmitted through sex.
In 2018, the boxer Saul Álvarez, nicknamed Canelo, blamed tainted meat for his positive tests for clenbuterol, a drug that can be used to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat. He was suspended for six months, delaying a lucrative rematch with Gennady Golovkin.
For Houlihan, the four-year suspension disqualifies her from the 2022 world championships, which were scheduled near where she lives in Eugene. In her Instagram post, she said she wanted to clearly state that she had “never taken any performance enhancing substances.”
“I believe in the sport and pushing your body to the limit just to see where the limit is,” she added. “I’m not interested in cheating.”
Column: The latest ingenious, insidious blow to the anti-doping movement at Olympics
The ability to induce a positive test in a rival competitor might be easier than previously thought
BY MARK ZEIGLER
JULY 21, 2021 6:36 PM PT
TOKYO — After Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and was stripped of his gold medal, he insisted there was an explanation: A strange man was in the doping control room before he provided his urine sample and must have spiked his water bottle.
He was the victim of sabotage.
Johnson later admitted in sworn government testimony that he indeed used steroids, lots and lots of them, but to this day he clings to the sabotage defense, claiming he had cycled off them in sufficient time to clear his system. The strange man in the doping control room that night, he confirmed, was a close friend of rival sprinter Carl Lewis and part of his entourage in Seoul.
And the dog ate his homework, too.
But what if … what if the dog really did eat his homework? What then?
That is the latest dilemma facing the overwhelmed anti-doping movement — it’s always something, isn’t it? — as another 17-day celebration of sport begins in Tokyo, this one after global lockdowns created a three-month gap when drug testing ground to a halt because of travel restrictions. But the problem suddenly is less what new, exotic concoctions athletes are putting in themselves than what they may be putting in their rivals.
Anti-doping today looks nothing like it did in Seoul 34 years ago, when athletes faced only primitive, in-competition testing and they could juice to the gills in training and world records were set — particularly in women’s track — that still stand.
There is a World Anti-Doping Agency now forming an umbrella of independent national testing organizations. There is robust, no-notice, year-round testing with both blood and urine. There is cutting-edge detection technology for masking agents and endurance-boosting EPO and human growth hormone and designer steroids. There’s a biological passport that tracks suspicious changes in personalized chemical markers. Samples are stored for 10 years for re-screening as new testing methodology is invented.
Athletes have even been sanctioned for missed tests. American Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest 100-meter sprinter, isn’t in Tokyo while serving an 18-month ban basically because he was shopping at a nearby mall during a one-hour window when he was supposed to be available for testers at home.
But just when the cat is cornering the mouse, it forgot about the dog.
ARD, the German broadcaster that uncovered the Russian doping scandal with a series of documentaries, released another this month. “Doping Top Secret: Guilty” examines the specter of testing positive by sabotage.
The Institute of Forensic Medicine at University Hospital in Cologne, Germany, conducted a research study with 12 men aged 18 to 40 in which they mixed different anabolic steroids into a clear ointment and rubbed a preposterously small amount — maybe a dime-sized dapple — on the arm, back of the neck and both sides of the hand. Then the participants provided daily urine samples for the two weeks.
And guess what. They all tested positive for steroids and still were 14 days later, at levels the director of Cologne’s famed anti-doping lab told ARD were “very likely” to trigger a positive finding and initiate disciplinary proceedings for a four-year competition ban. The study, ARD said, produced 222 positive tests.
It’s as innocuous, and insidious, as a handshake, or someone touching your arm in passing, or briefly rubbing your neck in a postgame hug.
“For a long time, we asked ourselves: Is it right to conduct such an experiment and make it public?” investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt says in German in the documentary. “Can it harm sport and the fight against anti-doping? Potential imitators would possibly be given ideas. Actual cheaters could try to talk their way out of it and mobilize lawyers to clear themselves.
“But potential victims must be better protected. If there are dangers, athletes have a right to know.”
Here’s the problem: The anti-doping establishment operates on the principle of “strict liability,” which means you are responsible for whatever is in your body, however it gets there. “Accordingly,” the WADA code states, “it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation.”
That contravenes most democratic legal systems, where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the anti-doping world, if an athlete tests positive, the burden of proof rests on him to establish innocence.
“Strict liability, in my point of view,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said, “is key for an efficient fight against doping.”
And it is. Or it was.
As the net has tightened around cheaters, the amounts and types of substances that can be used without fear of detection have been reduced. Dopers have adjusted, seeking methods that don’t involve discovering something that won’t trigger a positive test.
At the Sochi Winter Games, the Russians didn’t try to beat the test. They just pumped their athletes full of traditional performance-enhancing drugs and swapped out their dirty urine samples for clean ones through a hole in the doping lab, with the assistance of the secret police.
Now this: Instead of finding ways to avoid getting caught, find ways to get your competition caught.
It’s already happened. An aging Japanese canoeist was banned for eight years after admitting he spiked a younger competitor’s drink at the national championships. A Belgian judoka avoided a ban when she proved the isotonic powder she mixes with water was laced with cocaine — an act of “sabotage” according to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that granted her appeal.
Narsingh Yadav, a wrestler from India, tested positive before the 2016 Games in Rio and immediately pointed the finger at his rival, disgruntled because Yadav was controversially selected to the Olympic team over him. Yadav claimed an associate of the rival wrestler was seen in the kitchen of their training facility sprinkling a mysterious power over a curry meal being prepared (that they subsequently didn’t eat) and accused him of trying again by spiking a water bottle.
India’s anti-doping agency bought Yadav’s tale of subterfuge and reinstated him for Rio. The case was appealed to CAS, which didn’t find enough evidence of sabotage and yanked him from the Olympics a few days before his first bout, relying on testimony from a doping lab scientist that it was implausible to spike a drink in that way.
But what happens when it is plausible? What happens when athletes, guilty or not, cry sabotage and cite the ease with which the Cologne study manufactured positive tests from a dime-sized dapple of translucent ointment? What happens if they’re right?
Dick Pound, a Canadian IOC member who was in Seoul with Johnson and has been a champion of the modern anti-doping movement, said his concern level is “minimal,” reasoning: “It may be scientifically possible in some cases, but I wouldn’t be lying awake at night worrying about that. Anyway, we’ll see.”
Others in the anti-doping community, however, are indeed lying awake, confiding they have worried about this very scenario for years and fear it could turn the current system on its head — or at the very least create a culture of paranoia. Bach, himself a fencing gold medalist in 1976, admitted this week: “I am putting myself into the shoes of an athlete, and, of course, it is a matter of concern.”
“Without sounding too apocalyptic,” German triathlon gold medalist Jan Frodeno says on the ARD documentary, “the first question for me is whether this could somehow be the end of professional sport.”
The Tokyo Olympics officially open Friday, and a drug lab in the city that presumably won’t have a hole in the wall will quietly test thousands of urine and blood samples for PEDs over the next 17 days. And thousands of clean athletes will hold their breath awaiting the results.
Everywhere you go in Tokyo, every building you enter, there is a hand sanitizing station where you receive a squirt of translucent liquid to rub vigorously into your hands.
The mind no doubt will wander: Is it to make them cleaner, or dirtier?
I didn't know marijuana could make someone faster.. hmmmm
that's like your result don't count because you were drank.
What is going on? Let people smoke. Maijuana doesn't make anyone stronger or faster or smarter. Come on.. Or am I wrong? Maybe I should try it one day.
Haha, men can be fake too!!!
U.S., U.K. Swimmers Bemoan Doping After Russian Takes Gold In Men's Backstroke Event
Silver medalist Ryan Murphy of Team USA (from left), gold medalist Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee and bronze medalist Luke Greenbank of Great Britain during Friday's medal ceremony for the men's 200-meter backstroke final at the Tokyo Games
The second- and third-place finishers in the 200-meter men's backstroke final — Ryan Murphy of Team USA and Great Britain's Luke Greenbank, respectively — lamented the ongoing specter of doping in Olympic swimming following their race Friday.
It was an awkward time for them to get a question about the possible use of banned substances.
Sitting between them at the post-race press conference was the man who had just won gold, Evgeny Rylov of Russia, a country currently under sanctions related to its recent history of cheating.
Neither Murphy nor Greenbank directly accused Rylov of doping. But both said it was frustrating not to know if any of their competitors had a drug-induced advantage.
Earlier in the day, Murphy told reporters: "It is a huge mental drain to go through the year knowing that I'm swimming in a race that's probably not clean."
At the press conference, he softened his tone but still expressed frustration. "Congratulations to Evgeny, congratulations to Luke. They both did an incredible job. They're both very talented swimmers. They both train real hard, and they've got great technique," Murphy said. "At the end of the day, I do believe there's doping in swimming."
Russia's sporting federation is currently serving a two-year ban from international competition after the World Anti-Doping Agency said Russian authorities were guilty of a "blatant breach" of the conditions for reinstatement from an earlier ban related to systematic doping. The agency had originally imposed a four-year ban for the new infractions, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the term.
Under the ban, athletes are blocked from representing the Russian Federation in the Tokyo Olympics, just as athletes at the last Winter Olympics were barred from wearing their national uniforms. In Japan, Russians are competing on a team called the Russian Olympic Committee.
"Obviously, it's frustrating as an athlete, having known that there's a state-sponsored doping program going on, and feeling like maybe more could be done to tackle that," Greenbank said during the press conference.
In a translated tweet, the Russian Olympic Committee suggested its victories were "unnerving" its competitors and said that its athletes are participating in the Olympics whether people "like it or not."
During the press conference, Rylov denied doping and said he was in favor of a "clean competition.''
"I have always been tested, and I always fill out my documents," he said, according to a translation by The Guardian. "From the bottom of my heart, I am for clean sport."