MONTREAL — An “incredibly happy and very relieved” Laurence Vincent Lapointe said Monday she’s ready to resume training for her sport’s Olympic debut after an anti-doping panel concluded her failed drug test last year was due to cross-contamination from a boyfriend.
The panel convened by the International Canoe Federation cleared her to compete after it accepted that the 11-time world champion did not knowingly take ligandrol.
The federation also accepted that she was the victim of third-party contamination — namely, it appeared to accept her lawyer’s argument that the trace amount of the substance got into her system through the transfer of bodily fluids from her now ex-boyfriend.
At a Montreal news conference, the 27-year-old athlete said she hadn’t even known it was possible to test positive for a substance taken by someone else.
“In theory, all that I was taking and all that I was doing was as safe as it could be,” she said, adding that she even had her own supplements tested in a lab before taking them.
“I had no idea you could get contaminated via another person.”
Lawyer Adam Klevinas said the team undertook an exhaustive investigation to find the source that included analyzing some 17 supplements and food products, including spices as well as chocolates she’d been given as a gift.
Only weeks before a December hearing in front of the ICF’s doping control panel in Lausanne, Switzerland, a hair sample of Vincent Lapointe’s ex led to the evidence.
“It took months to get results, and then at the end, we got the idea to analyze the hair of her ex and to test a product he finally admitted to taking, and in the weeks before the hearing (in December) we found the source. It’s pretty incredible,” he said at a news conference.
I had no idea you could get contaminated via another person.Laurence Vincent Lapointe
Klevinas said the boyfriend, a recreational soccer player, took a product called SR9011, purportedly to gain energy, without telling Vincent Lapointe. Ligandrol was not among the listed ingredients but was found upon testing, he said.
Klevinas said the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport have the right to appeal the decision. However, he expressed hope they won’t feel the need to do so after seeing the extent of the evidence in support of the case.
Ligandrol, used to treat conditions such as muscle wasting and osteoporosis, is on WADA’s list of banned substances because it has an anabolic steroids effect.
Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for having trace amounts of the drug in an out-of-competition doping test conducted July 29.
She was subsequently suspended and was not able to compete at the 2019 ICF canoe sprint world championships, which doubled as a Tokyo 2020 Olympic selection event.
Vincent Lapointe said the months following the positive test were mentally and emotionally difficult, and she struggled to keep her motivation to train.
“I had trouble waking up in the morning,” she said. “I had no goal, nothing to push me forward.”
However an athlete’s retreat helped her find a new enthusiasm for the sport, and now she says her training is more or less on track, despite having no access to a coach during her suspension.
Vincent Lapointe still has to qualify for the Games. Gracenote, an international data analytics company, has predicted she will win two Olympic gold medals this year.
She said that while she may be slightly behind where she was last year physically, she’s now mentally stronger than ever.
“You can’t even imagine how relieved I am,” she said. “It feels good to put an end to this journey and just be able to concentrate on what I love, and get back on the water to prepare for the (Olympic) Games.
“It’s amazing. I’m ready. I’m aiming for the Games.”
The C1 200-metre qualification is April 16-19 in Lake Lanier, Ga. She can earn a nomination to the Olympic team with two wins.
In the C2 500 metres, Canada needs to qualify a boat by winning an event May 7-10 in Curitiba, Brazil.
If Canada wins, Canoe Kayak Canada will make a decision on athletes for that event later that month.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2020.