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Two American female triathletes, Beth Gerdes and Lauren Barnett, separately revealed today that they each have been handed suspensions for doping violations that occurred in 2016.
Gerdes, who crossed the finish line in first place at both Ironman Switzerland in 2015 and Ironman Australia in 2016, tested positive for a substance called Ostarine at that Australia race in May of 2016. In a blog post titled “The greatest disappointment of my life,” Gerdes shared that she first received news of her positive test in June of last year. She denies knowingly taking any banned substances and says that she had multiple nutrition products tested (“anything that could have possibly passed my lips”) to find the culprit, and took a polygraph test with the goal of proving that the Ostarine entered her system unintentionally. She passed the polygraph test. And although one sample of salt pills came back with a “presumptive positive” for Ostarine, subsequent samples did not. Without a definitive answer to the exact source of how the drug got in her system, the World Triathlon Corporation handed Gerdes a two-year suspension.
“In the end, on some level, I need to take responsibility because it is my body and per the rules, I am responsible for what goes into it,” she wrote. “I believe that the evidence points to the fact that I would never choose to take a performance-enhancing substance and I hope that some people, I know not all, but those who know me, will believe me.” (Read her complete blogpost, which provides her detailed account as well as the summary document of the lab results.)
The other athlete to announce a violation today, Lauren Barnett, chose to send a press release through her attorney. She will serve a six-month suspension for testing positive for the same substance, Ostarine. The suspension was retroactively enacted from the positive test date and expires tomorrow. Though the announcement doesn’t specifically name the race, the date of the positive sample (July 17, 2016) points to her victory at Ironman 70.3 Racine. Subsequent testing by two independent laboratories on both the bottle she had used on the day of her positive test and another sealed bottle from a different batch and lot number showed that a salt tablet that Barnett had taken was contaminated and caused the positive test. The ability to prove the source of the positive test, and the fact that it was a contaminated product, is the reason for the lesser suspension.
“As I look for the silver lining in what has been the most difficult and emotional ordeal I’ve ever been through, I am happy that in cooperation with WTC, we were able to establish convincing scientific proof of supplement contamination,” Barnett said in part of her statement. “I no longer have to wonder how a substance got into my body when I never would have knowingly or intentionally put it there.”