Over the past two years, USA Weightlifting has taken a hard stance on the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) inside and out of competition. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has done an excellent job enforcing the guidelines for athletes, including strict guidelines for whereabouts reporting and extensive education among coaches and athletes. The case we are about to investigate raises a few question marks on the principles of USAW and USADA.
Recently, an individual on the youth Pan American team tested positive for “ostarine”. This is an anabolic that prevents muscle wasting while cutting weight. It was ruled by USADA that the individual unknowingly took the banned substance, and the athlete received a three month ban. The ban was retroactive to the test date, and the athlete remains eligible for the youth Pan American team, even though the athlete tested positive during the qualification period.
I am confident that the athlete, the athlete’s coach, and others advising the athlete have been educated in supplement 411 and USADA meetings. It is very possible that the athlete, and the adults involved, were not aware that a supplement contained a banned substance, but it does not change the fact that the athlete was using a performance enhancing supplement during the qualification period.
- The athlete posted a qualifying total for the youth Pan American team while competing at a qualifier in Peru. The announcement was made for this pan qualifier 4-6 weeks prior to the meet, and athletes were eligible to compete by invite only. The trip was self funded, and only four americans traveled to the competition on such short notice.
- The precedent was set in 2017 when another American lifter ‘unknowingly’ took the same banned substance as the athlete in question and received a two year ban. Several other USADA testing violations received nine-month to two-year ban.
- The USAW claims they can not remove this athlete from the Pan American team. Because USADA’s ruling of a three month ban will have been served, the athlete remains eligible for the team. (USAW removed D’Angelo Osorio from the World’s team in 2017 and replaced him with Wes Kitts. This was allowed under the “opportunity clause” because there was potential for the US Team to score more points at the world competition.) There is no determining factor in the youth Pan American competition that warrants a change in roster. Therefore USAW claims they have no grounds for removing this athlete from the youth Pan Am’s team.
- The individual’s ban has been back-dated to the day the drug test was administered. The athlete competed at a USAW sanctioned event during the time of the supposed ban. The athlete also broke American records at that event. Thus, she was not serving the ban during the suspension time frame. [*Update: The athlete has been disqualified from all competitive results, including forfeiture of any medals, points, and prizes obtained while serving the ban]
USAW is knowingly choosing to maintain its current roster instead of placing an athlete on the team who was drug free during the qualification period.
USAW should amend their bylaws to include a clause that any individual who receives a positive drug test during the qualification period for a United States International team (even if the ban is shortened by USADA) should not be allowed to compete with that USAW Team.
If this was the Olympics and someone tested positive prior to the Games, this situation would be handled much differently. What if one of the reserve athletes was the next Jenny Arthur, an athlete that competes clean, works hard on a daily basis and deserves this opportunity to compete for team USA.
USADA needs to be consistent with their rulings. There has been a prior ruling determining consequences for an athlete taking the same banned substance as the athlete in question. Moreover, most bans are set from the point of ruling, the date the test results are made public. In the event of a positive test, any competitions from the test date to the announced point of ruling, and subsequent ban should be deemed null and void.
What does USAW and USADA have to gain from this scenario? Again, I truly believe this individual unknowingly took the banned substance, but ignorance is not an excuse. This is the perfect opportunity for USAW and USADA to make it clear to all athletes and coaches that taking a banned substance unknowingly is still unacceptable. Undoubtedly, a youth lifter will view this scenario as their national governing body (USAW) protecting an athlete who failed a drug test.
The athlete in question is very talented. I am confident this athlete will have an excellent career once this blemish on their record passes. The magnitude of this meet is not high, but the youth age group is immature and makes brash decisions. This is why the adults in this scenario need to look at this scenario with a clear head. If this was my athlete, I would make the determination to remove the athlete from the Pan American team and start preparing for the next opportunity. The athlete (or coach) made a mistake. However, mistakes come with consequences and a talented athlete will acknowledge those consequences and move forward.
The goal of the youth and junior age groups is to keep athletes in the sport as long as possible so they can develop into world class athletes. In the case of this athlete, and others affected by this decision, I don’t believe we are communicating the correct message.
Athletes are responsible for knowing what goes into their bodies. The coaches and parents of youth athletes are also responsible for making wise decisions when it comes to proper nutrition and supplementation for these athletes. Mistakes like the one discussed here can have serious consequences for athletes at any level. Make the decision for yourself and your athletes to compete clean so you don’t find yourself in a scenario like the one discussed here. Because cheating unintentionally is still cheating.
For information on USADA visit: https://www.usada.org Supplement 411 information: Check here
As a coach with 20+ athletes in the RTP in multiple olympic sports (wrestling, track and field, olympic weightlifting), I know what supplements my athletes are taking. I also am the owner of Earth Fed Muscle, a supplement I started because I wanted to make sure my athletes were competing clean and getting clean products. My athletes at Garage Strength have been tested over 50 times in the last 12 months. Why are parents and coaches looking anywhere else for supplements?
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