Two female Ironman competitors were handed sanctions today for doping violations.
American Lauren Barnett was given a 6 month suspension for the anabolic agent ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM). Ms. Barnett was able to establish that the prohibited substance came from a contaminated supplement and so was given a reduced ban. Ms. Barnett’s positive sample was collected at the 2016 IRONMAN® 70.3 Racine, which she won. Her period of ineligibility began August 4, 2016, the date of her provisional suspension.
All of Ms. Barnett’s results from July 17, 2016, including the Racine race, and onward were nullified.
American Beth Gerdes (above) was suspended for 2 years as a result of an adverse finding from a sample obtained after her race at Ironman Australia on May 1, 2016. Ms. Gerdes was also found to have ingested ostarine, and has maintained her innocence.
Ms. Barnett conclusively proved that salt tablets in her possession were contaminated with ostarine. Ms. Gerdes’ had salt tablets tested that returned an initial presumptive positive for ostarine on an unopened package. The lab was unable to confirm the positive finding on subsequent packets of salt pills according to Ms. Gerdes.
The salt pills tested by Ms. Gerdes were of a different brand than those found to have been contaminated in Ms. Barnett’s case.
Attorney Howard Jacobs represented both women. “Ostarine is probably the biggest problem in supplement contamination. It is exactly the nandrolone problem of today,” said Mr. Jacobs. Nandrolone was the anabolic showing up in the tests of a high number of athletes across sports in the early 2000s. Mr. Jacobs maintains two other cases he’s currently working on – athletes who are not in the sport of triathlon – are similar: inadvertent ingestion of ostarine via a contaminated supplement. Mr. Jacobs also represented U.S. Triathlete Ashley Paulson who also accepted a 6-month ban for ostarine, another case of contamination similar to Ms. Barnett’s according to USADA.
Ostarine is an over-the-counter supplement. Because it’s a popular and effective anabolic it may well be used for illicit purposes and, because it’s popularity, contaminate other substances packaged by labs during the manufacturing process.