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Anti-doping rule change urged after cyclist tests positive because dying dog’s medicine got on her hands

US Anti-Doping Agency calls for reform of rules, arguing rider should not be named after no-fault violation

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has called for a reform of rules surrounding no-fault violations of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC), saying that it is unfair that an athlete who has returned an adverse analytical finding but been cleared of committing a violation should have to disclose the result of the test.

Czech cyclist Katerina Nash, who lives in Califiornia, tested positive for capromorelin following an out-of-competition urine sample she gave on 24 October last year.

While the substance does not appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List, it is banned as a Non-Specified Substance in the class of Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances and Mimetics and is prohibited at all times, both in and out of competition, by USADA and various sports governing bodies within the United States.

During an investigation undertaken by USADA Nash, aged 45, gave the agency records of a prescription liquid pet medication containing capromorelin, which acts as an appetite stimulant.

She had been administering the medicine to her dog, which it ingested orally, in the final weeks of its life as she sought to help her pet maintain its weight.

Nash could have faced a four-year suspension, but USADA says that thanks to its efforts on her behalf, she will not be sanctioned.

According to USADA,

Due to the difficulty of administering oral pet medication, Nash would frequently come into contact with the liquid medication via her hands, and the medication bottle did not warn users about the risk of contamination from transdermal exposure. USADA, together with laboratory experts, conducted a study of transdermal exposure using the same pet medication containing capromorelin, which established that coming into direct contact with the pet medication would cause a positive test.

Importantly, these studies demonstrated that the athlete’s exposure scenario with the medication correlated with the trace levels, 0.07 ng/mL (parts per trillion), of capromorelin found in her urine sample. There is currently no threshold for capromorelin, so any level triggers an adverse analytical finding. USADA therefore concluded that Nash had no fault or negligence with respect to the presence of capromorelin in her sample.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart – whose investigation a little more than a decade ago resulted in Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and being banned from sport for life – said that Nash’s case highlighted the need for anti-doping rules to be reformed to protect athletes who have been subject to entirely innocent contamination from being subject to stigma once their names have been made public.

“If there is no question that an athlete comes into contact with a prohibited substance from a completely innocent source and there is no effect on performance, USADA continues to advocate that there should not be a violation or a public announcement,” he insisted.

“The rules must change and all of us must wake up and demand a more fair and just global anti-doping system that catches and sanctions intentional cheats who rob clean athletes but does not railroad innocent athletes.

“As in this case, we always work as hard to try to exonerate the truly innocent as we do to convict those who intentionally cheat,” Tygart added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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