BTF responds to ‘positive’ Cozumel test

ITU World Championship Cozumel, Mexico

Overnight, like me, you’ve probably seen news emerge on social media of a “tested positive” story of a British triathlete at the World Championships in Cozumel in September.

On a day when we’ve heard stories of Russian doping on an unprecedented scale, of course, there has been lots of speculation and discussion about the case.

Here is a timeline of the factual information we are aware of – along with a statement from British Triathlon on the case.

Triathlon Magazine Canada & Trimes.org articles

Triathlon Magazine Canada (here) originally published a story by Claire Duncan, referencing a news article on the website thelawyer.com (linked to, and reproduced in full below), which outlines, briefly, the background that a ‘British Triathlete’ (which we can interpret is male, based on the final line of the press release), was cleared of a ‘positive’ test for Clenbuterol, on the basis put forward and accepted that the low levels in the A and B samples were low and consistent with the ingestion of contaminated meat – a known issue in Mexico, where “the illegal use of Clenbuterol in the cattle industry remains a problem”.

*** UPDATE – Claire has contacted me to request credit for the initial news story to Trimes.org / Alex Saint Jalm (here), which I am happy to do here, having not previously been aware of that article. ***

The Canadian article would appear to include additional information to that provided by thelawyer.com announcement:

  • thelawyer.com does not specify that it was an ‘elite’ athlete.
  • thelawyer.com references the ‘World Championships in Mexico’, not the ITU Grand Final (a small detail perhaps, but remember that Cozumel also hosted the Aquathlon World Championships and Age-Group World Championships).
  • thelawyer.com makes no reference to the statement that “The BTF has stepped forward and supported their athlete throughout the legal process, taking responsibility for not warning their team of the risks of local meat consumption while in Mexico”. The statement from British Triathlon (below) makes no reference to this.

Original source: thelawyer.com

Article available on registration – here

“Outer Temple Chambers’ Matthew Phillips was instructed to advise and represent a British Triathlete who tested positive for Clenbuterol at the recent World Championships in Mexico. An anti-doping rule violation was asserted by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) against the athlete.

The applicable period of ineligibility for the alleged violation is four years. The levels of Clenbuterol in the athletes A and B samples were low. A defence was forwarded alleging that consumption of contaminated meat prior to the testing was the most likely explanation for the adverse findings.

The illegal use of Clenbuterol in the cattle industry in Mexico remains a problem. The athlete was not warned about the risk of eating meat in Mexico.

Having consulted with WADA, the ITU accepted that the athlete’s defence was “plausible and receivable”. The athlete has been informed that he has no case to answer.”

In such cases, given that the WADA / ITU decision was “no case to answer”, the case is closed under the current processes and the athletes name is not made public.

What does appear very strange to us… is why would the lawyers, Outer Temple Chambers, “publish” this in the first place? Would they not have a duty of client confidentiality? One can only assume that they would – and have perhaps realised their mistake, since having initially posted the story as news on their own website, the item has now been removed from this link.

It still remains on thelawyer.com, here – but for how long, remains to be seen.

British Triathlon statement

However, British Triathlon have issued a statement on the case – reproduced in full below – which clearly states that “The athlete concerned is not a member of British Triathlon’s World Class Performance Programme”.

The members of the 2016 World Class Performance Programme are public information – we’ve got it on our website for example.

So… we can can confirm, despite speculation elsewhere, that the athlete involved is NOT any of the British Elite Senior Male Squad that competed at Cozumel (namely Alistair Brownlee, Jonathan Brownlee, Adam Bowden or Tom Bishop).

Here is the statement from British Triathlon:

British Triathlon was made aware in October of a possible in-competition anti-doping rule violation at the World Championships in Cozumel.

The athlete concerned is not a member of British Triathlon’s World Class Performance Programme.

The case has been thoroughly investigated, and International Triathlon Union and WADA have concluded that there is no case for the athlete to answer due to contamination in meat.

There are no further steps being taken in this case, which is now officially closed.

British Triathlon CEO, Jack Buckner, commented: “British Triathlon adopts a strong anti-doping stance, working with domestic and international agencies to promote clean sport and fair play. We endeavour through education and training alongside UKAD to increase our athletes’ and staff awareness of the requirements of the anti-doping rules established by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Triathlon Union.”

An interesting aside – WADA and testing in Mexico

Here’s an interesting aside – possibly unrelated to this specific case? – but interesting nonetheless.

Just over two weeks ago, WADA (World Anti Doping Authority) suspended, for a period of up to six months, the accreditation of the Laboratorio Nacional de Prevencion y Control del Dopaje-CONADE (the “Laboratory”) in Mexico City, Mexico.

The announcement states “The decision to suspend the laboratory is a direct result of the more stringent quality assessment procedures enacted by WADA to ensure laboratories maintain the highest standards.”

Was this laboratory even involved in the testing? I don’t have access to that information – but a look at the WADA list of accredited and approved laboratories suggest that it is the only one in Mexico.

The result?

No doubt there will be more on this in due course – perhaps a statement / further clarification from the ITU will be forthcoming soon? – but as of now (lunchtime Saturday), that is our best summary of the facts – as we understand them – of the case as it stands.

We wouldn’t expect any governing body (WADA, ITU, BTF or other) to name the athlete involved since, under their rules and processes, the case is closed, the athlete has been deemed innocent and there is “no case to answer”.