Roland Schoeman blames contaminated supplement for positive dope test

Roland Schoeman has tested positive in a doping test.
Roland Schoeman has tested positive in a doping test.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Veteran swimming star Roland Schoeman says the positive dope test that led to his one-year ban from the sport was inadvertent and was probably caused by a contaminated supplement.

The 39-year-old, one of only two South Africans to have won three Olympic medals at a single Games, said he was still hoping to get to the Tokyo showpiece later this year.

US-based Schoeman said in a statement issued on Twitter on Saturday that he had tested positive for GW50516, a hormone and metabolic regulator also known as Cardarine, in an out-of-competition test on May 18 last year.

At the time he was taking a “variety of supplements”, adding he had tested negative in two tests before and two immediately afterwards.

“Regretfully, by the time Fina [world swimming’s controlling body] notified me of the positive test, there was none of that month’s supplement supply left,” Schoeman said.

“I would never knowingly take a banned substance and much less a substance known to carry cancer, heart attack and stroke risks.

“It’s important to note that Fina would normally apply an automatic two or four-year ban for doping based on the evidence.

“I sat in Lausanne with Fina officials for over seven hours, answering any and all questions. It’s testament to Fina’s understanding that this was possibly inadvertent cross-contamination, that I received only a one-year ban.”

Schoeman, who spearheaded SA’s 4x100m freestyle relay team to gold at Athens 2004, where he also won the 100m freestyle silver and 50m freestyle bronze medals, insisted he had always raced clean.

“I have never, in my decades of competition, taken performance-enhancing substances and never would. The minimal concentration of Cardarine in my urine — just 1.3 nanograms — is confirmed by lab technicians and experts to indicate that this could have been caused by product contamination.

“The detection time for just one dose of Cardarine is up to 40 days. So had I been intentionally taking it, all five tests would have proved positive.”

Schoeman, once the second-quickest 50m freestyler in history, said the positive result had hit him hard.

“This incident has been personally devastating and very stressful because I can say with hand on heart I have never knowingly taken any banned substance. Those who know me know of my long-term commitment to clean sport.”

Schoeman said he would in future record batch numbers of supplements and keep pills and powders aside “should any sample abnormalities ever again be detected”.

“I used to think the world of illicit supplementing was straightforward. That you either took supplements or you didn’t. And frankly I disbelieved other athletes when they claimed contamination. I now know from painful experience that it isn’t quite that simple.”

Schoeman said he was still eyeing the Tokyo Games. “It remains my ambition to compete in the Olympics this year, if possible.”

The swimmer said he had asked Fina to assist in educating athletes “on the real risks of taking supplements, as well as the safety measures we now know need to be in place”.

He added that he was also involved in the development of a supplement information app to assist tested athletes.

Apart from his three Olympic medals, Schoeman won five world championship medals from 2001 to 2007, including consecutive 50m butterfly golds in 2005 and 2007 as well as gold in the 50m freestyle in 2005.

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