Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



A Not-So-Good (Very Bad) History of Doping in Triathlon

Multisport hasn't been immune to the specter of drug use in its ranks. We take a look at the sport's dark past.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Collin Chartier may be one of the most high-profile triathletes to test positive for Erythropoietin (EPO) in recent years, but there has been a long and dirty history of performance enhancing drug use in triathlon. Since 2000—the year French scientists first unveiled a test for EPO—dozens of triathletes have been popped for the banned blood booster, or otherwise affiliated with the drug. Here are some of the more shocking stories that have emerged in the past two decades.

Nina Kraft, Germany

The Fallout: After winning both Ironman Germany and the Ironman World Championship in 2004, Kraft tested positive for EPO, which she admitted taking, saying, “The mistake cannot be rectified; I am going to bear all the consequences,” she told Hesse state radio back in 2004 As a result, Kraft was stripped of her world championship title (which was given to Natascha Badmann), and banned from all competition for one year by both the World Triathlon Corporation and the German Triathlon Federation.

The Aftermath: Following Kraft’s ban, the German Triathlon Federation enforced stricter testing policies and introduced the Elitepass, which required athletes to agree to drug testing in order to collect prize money. Meanwhile, Kraft moved to Clermont, Florida, returned to the sport in 2006 and would go on to become the oldest female Ironman winner at the age of 45 by breaking the tape at Ironman Louisville in 2014.  Kraft passed away in 2020 at the age of 51.

Rutger Beke, Belgium

The Fallout: When Beke, the runner-up at the 2003 Ironman World Championship, tested positive for EPO, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) slapped him with an 18-month suspension in March, 2005. But Beke, who returned positive tests from anti-doping labs in both Belgium and Germany, staunchly maintained his innocence. After ten months, researchers were able to show convincing evidence that Beke naturally excreted proteins that would yield a positive EPO test and the Flemish government’s disciplinary commission cleared Beke of any wrongdoing in August of 2005.

The Aftermath: Beke’s landmark false positive case put the reliability of the EPO test under scrutiny. As a result, that same year, Spanish triathletes Virginia Berasategui Luna and Iban Rodríguez Martínez were also cleared of doping charges because of doubts about how EPO came to be in their bodies. (Incidentally, Berasategui Luna, who adamantly denied cheating and would go on to finish third at Ironman World Champs in 2009, was popped for EPO again in 2013. She later admitted to cheating, citing immense psychological pressure and demands.)

As for Beke’s career, he didn’t miss a beat; going on to place fourth at the Ironman World Championships in 2005 and 2006 before returning to the podium with a third place finish in 2008.

Bridget McMahon, Switzerland

The Fallout: The 2000 Olympic gold medalist admitted to taking “small doses” of EPO “for therapeutic purposes” after feeling weak and listless during training—symptoms she chalked up to having a low red blood cell count. Despite copping to using EPO, McMahon insisted she raced clean in Sydney. McMahon, who served a two year ban, refused to name her supplier.

The Aftermath: McMahon retired from professional racing following her doping suspension. She returned to the sport as an age grouper in 2013 and won every major race she entered over the next four years. In 2019, she finished second in the 50-54 age-group at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Lance Armstrong, U.S.

The Fallout: After retiring from cycling amid allegations and investigations regarding his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), the then-40-year-old competed as a pro triathlete to much hype and eyebrow raising (and straight-up vitriol). With several Ironman 70.3 races under his belt (including two in which he won), Armstrong was training for Ironman France in June, 2012 where he aimed to punch his ticket to Kona. Just one week before that race, the World Triathlon Corporation imposed a ban that reflected their rule that suspends all athletes “under investigation” for alleged doping offenses, and Armstrong was not allowed to compete.

The Aftermath: Some four months later, the U.S. Anti-Doping Association (USADA) formally charged Armstrong with using, possessing, and trafficking banned substances during his time in cycling—charges that he did not appeal. He was given a lifetime ban from all USADA and World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) sanctioned events, including triathlons, and in turn stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. He maintained his innocence until his infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey when he finally admitted to cheating, calling his storybook career a “myth” and “one big lie.” After some chatter about Armstrong negotiating a reduced ban that would allow him to return to triathlon, he never did.

Ariane Monticeli, Brazil

The Fallout: The one-time Ironman Brazil winner and national long-course champion claims to have tried to save a sinking 2016 season rife with personal problems and injuries by using EPO that she purchased online just one time.  “I did not do a ‘cycle,’” Monticeli, who worked as a flight attendant while competing as a pro triathlete, wrote in a detailed statement released following her ban. “I just used it and believed that it would leave the body fast….it did not change my performance at all. High risk for zero benefit.” Like Chartier, Monticeli cited mounting pressure to win as her main motive for cheating.

The Aftermath: Monticeli’s four-year ban from the sport was up in May of 2021, and though the 40-year-old won a duathlon in Brazil in December, she posted that she has no intentions of returning to triathlon as a pro.

Eduardo Solis, Costa Rica

The Fallout: Solis was one of three age-groupers nabbed for PEDs through out of competition tests at the 2018 Ironman World Championship. Solis, who competed in Kona in 2013, 2016, and 2018, where he placed no higher than 144th in his age-group, tested positive for multiple prohibited substances including EPO and multiple anabolic androgenic steroids during testing conducted before race day in 2018.

The Aftermath: Solis’ case underscored the endemic use of PEDs in age-group competition—Ironman reports that more than half of Anti-Doping Rule Violations have been by age-group athletes—and the need for more frequent testing among all athletes. Unlike pro athletes, who have to enter a registered testing pool and report their whereabouts to USADA and/or WADA, this rule does not apply to age-group athletes, and testing is done infrequently and only at major events.

Igor Polyanskiy,  Russia

The Fallout: Polyanskiy, a part of the Russian Olympic Committee at the 2020 Olympic Games, admitted doping with EPO after a positive test in a sample taken five days before he competed in Tokyo, where he placed 43rd in the men’s individual race  and finished 14th in the mixed relay event. Polyanskiy, 31, admitted the charge and received a one-year reduction from the four-year ban, which will remain in place until August, 2024. Polyanskiy was one of three Russian athletes to be suspended for PED use in 2021, alongside Alexander Bryukhankov and Vladimir Turbayevskiy

The Aftermath: In December, 2021, World Triathlon’s Executive Board cracked down on the Russian Triathlon Federation because of the multiple doping cases in the country. The Federation had to agree upon more testing, implementing an education plan for athletes about doping, and to compensate and refund the prize money awarded to the Russian triathletes sanctioned with doping offenses. In addition, Russia was barred from hosting any World or European Triathlon events until the end of 2022, among other penalties.

Collin Chartier, U.S.

Chartier running outside
(Photo: Professional Triathlon Organization)

The Fallout: On Monday, April 24, 2023, it was announced that Chartier, 29, had the presence of EPO in a sample collected out-of-competition by Ironman (handled by the International Testing Agency) on February 10. Chartier, the 14th-ranked male triathlete in the world who won both the PTO Open in September and Ironman Mont Tremblant in August said he acted alone and maintains that was clean up until February of this year (he hasn’t raced since placing 35th at the Ironman World Championships in October). Because he has admitted to doping and did not challenge the violation, he was given a one-year reduction in his four-year ban.

The Aftermath: Chartier’s three-year ban will remain in effect until March 26, 2026, but at the time of the announcement he has said that he does not plan to return to pro triathlon. Amid outcry and demands for action beyond a three-year ban from the greater triathlon community, the Professional Triathletes Organization announced that they’re “seeking legal and expert advice on the specifics of Chartier’s [violation] as they relate to the PTO.” Chartier earned a total of $148,000 in 2022—including a breakthrough win and $100k payday at the PTO U.S. Open in September of 2022, only a few months before he claimed he began using drugs—making him the 24th highest-paid triathlete among men and women.

Video: 4X World Champion Mirinda Carfrae Makes Her Picks for 70.3 Chattanooga

Carfrae and former pro Patrick Mckeon break down the iconic course in Chattanooga, who looks good for the pro women's race, and their predictions for how the day will play out.