By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, April 1. ONE day after a report in the French newspaper L'Equipe stated that Ian Thorpe had turned up an adverse analytical finding in a May of 2006 drug test, the Australian freestyle legend and five-time Olympic gold medalist addressed the media to discuss the matter. Not surprisingly, Thorpe was deeply stung by the news.
In the test of question, Thorpe was found to have abnormal levels of testosterone and luteinizing hormone in his body. It is important to note that these are naturally-occurring substances within the body and the fact that Thorpe was found to have higher than normal levels could be for physiological reasons. For instance, illness or prescribed medication could have led to the readings.
However, FINA has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to look into the matter. During its press conference the day before Thorpe met with the media, FINA indicated that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority had closed the case. For that reason, FINA had to appeal to the CAS to look into the case. Now, ASADA is claiming it never closed the case, but was proceeding slowly and carefully.
"I was in complete shock, I didn't know what to do, how to react and you know, I think I sat in my room, you know, kind of physically shaking," Thorpe said, upon his learning of the report. "Because I didn't understand it, I don't know what the figures (said). What they actually meant at that stage. You know, then in speaking to people, I got a better understanding. But you know, personally, I just had to deal with it at this point of time. It is gut-wrenching. It really is."
The night the report surfaced, Thorpe sat in the stands at Rod Laver Arena for the seventh night of the World Championships. He plans on cooperating fully with ASADA and FINA as the matter moves forward. It is likely that the CAS will weigh in on the case in the spring. It has been 10 months since Thorpe had the adverse analytical finding. Normally, it takes 10 weeks to solve these types of issues.
Thorpe has contacted one of his physicians, who is compiling his records to determine if any medication could have resulted in the results produced by Thorpe's sample. He is also contemplating legal action, as his reputation – regardless of the outcome – has been dealt a serious blow. Thorpe has long been one of the leading proponents against doping and has been one of the most-tested swimmers in the world. Thorpe didn't argue that his reputation has been hurt.
"It is already tarnished," said Thorpe, who has received great support from his former teammates. "It is as simple as that. Quite simply because of this leak that has happened. You know, this for other athletes has happened from time to time and (there) is a very innocent reason for it and that's, you know, that's the hardest thing to take, is that this is an innocent sample at the moment but it's being treated differently. So you know my reputation probably is tarnished now. What's important is to actually get the facts out there and for the right result to come out which will be a negative test."
Here is the statement Thorpe read at the beginning of the press conference:
Yesterday at 8 a.m., I was contacted by a representative of Swimming Australia to tell me that there was a report on the Web site of the French Newspaper L'Equipe that a doping test that I had undertaken had returned an unusual level of testosterone and a hormone, and that there had been proceedings in the Court of Arbitration for Sport between ASADA and FINA in relation to the test.
This, as you will appreciate, was a complete shock to me.
I had no previous knowledge of any result of this kind and I did not understand how a test result that supposedly related to me, which must have been undertaken some time ago given my retirement, could be being leaked to a French newspaper when I did not know about it.
I was subsequently contacted by and met with ASADA who advised me and I can now confirm the following:
**A test that was undertaken in May 2006 while I was in Australia returned unusual levels of testosterone and a hormone called leutenizing hormone.
**Both these substances are naturally occurring substances.
**There are many innocent physiological and pathological reasons why a test may return unusual levels of these substances.
**ASADA (was) in the process of writing to me to get further medical information from me as part of their routine results management process when the story appeared on the L'Equipe website.
**ASADA will in the near future be sending me a letter seeking this information.
ASADA (was) at pains to reassure me that I have not failed a drug test and they made it clear to me that any suggestion that is being made to this effect is just plain wrong.
They said that the sending of the letter is just part of their routine process.
I have made it clear to ASADA that I will cooperate fully with ASADA in providing it with the information that it is seeking.
I have complete confidence that all the medical and scientific evidence will establish that I am clean.
I have always been, and remain, a strong supporter of the drug testing system.
Most people will probably recognize that I have been one of the most tested athletes.
I also launched the Athlete's Passport and I have provided blood samples to be frozen for future testing in accordance with its procedures.
I firmly believe in clean sport and I stated my position publicly on many occasions – sometimes to my detriment with officials.
I have never cheated and have always complied with my obligations under the anti-doping codes to the letter. I have prided myself on this and my reputation as a fair competitor is the most valuable thing that I take out of my time in swimming.
This is why I find the media speculation that I have cheated to be so upsetting. I am deeply alarmed that information about my test result was leaked to the press before I was informed of it. The press receiving this information before an athlete jeopardizes the whole integrity of the testing process.
What is even more troubling is that the test result is one for which I understand there are many innocent explanations.
The obligations of confidentiality that are owed to me under the WADA Code are meant to protect the reputations of innocent people from being damaged by media speculation while the routine results management processes are being undertaken.
I have been deprived of this protection by the deliberate act of the person who leaked this information.
I can only speculate at the motives of the person or persons responsible.
I would like to finish by thanking the many people, including many past teammates and competitors of my mine, who have offered me their support, both publicly and privately at this time.
I was particularly gladdened by the support I have received from members of the public on this issue and I am very grateful for it.
I would also like to than Swimming Australia for its support, in particular Glen Tasker and Neil Martin.