NCAA Champion Kensey McMahon Opens Up About Positive Test, Failed Appeal

Kensey McMahon; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA champion Kensey McMahon has been out of the water competitively since last summer and on Tuesday revealed that she tested positive for a banned substance and has lost her appeal.

McMahon wrote in an Instagram post that on July 7, 2023, she received a call from a USADA representative that said her July 1 in-competition sample tested positive for an “estimate of .05 ng/mL of Vadadustat.” She was immediately suspended for four years.

“In a phone call that lasted less than two minutes, my entire world was flipped upside down,” she said. “I have been tested by USADA in competitions… since 2016 and never had a positive test. I do believe in and support clean sport. … I still don’t have answers for how this happened to me, though I will continue to search.”

Vadadustat is a medication used for treating anemia in related to kidney disease in adults on dialysis.

McMahon said she hired a law firm to defend her case, testing everything she consumed during the months leading up to and during the competition and none contained Vadadustat.

“I submitted a polygraph test (which I passed) and hair sample analysis, which was negative (as were all my random USADA doping control tests both before and after July 1, including one just four days after the positive,” Kensey McMahon wrote.



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McMahon had a hearing on May 2 and the results were revealed to her this week.

“The arbitrator did not conclude that I intended to cheat, (but) I could not meet my burden of proof under the rules as they are currently written,” Kensey McMahon said. “My case is the first case involving Vadadustat and without that source, my suspension of four years stands.”

McMahon in her post called for reform in the anti-doping process.

“There’s been a lot of news and opinions circulating recently regarding anti-doping cases,” she wrote. “With each new story, there is more evidence of the flaws in the current system and its associated policies and politics. Athletes, like me, are not protected and the system weighs heavily against us. We’re presumed guilty and immediately banned from all sports with little recourse. With non-threshold substance cases like mine, ‘the estimate,’ can be something so incredibly small but the consequence is still the same. Contamination through foods, supplements, medicines, cosmetics, human contact, and environmental factors have all yielded positive doping results at these incredibly low levels, which is scary for an athlete to hear.

“I have offered my experience to both USA Swimming and USADA to advocate for chance in testing and policy so other athletes and their families might be spared some of the mental and financial stress we have experienced. If this can happen to me, it can absolutely happen to others. I lost the opportunity to see what I was capable of and how far I could go in my sport, and in my pursuit of being a Paris Olympian because of an ‘estimate’ equivalent to a sprinkle from a saltshaker into and Olympic sized pool.

“I have leaned on my faith throughout this life-altering ordeal and believe the timing cannot be coincidental. God has an assignment for each of us and this happened for a reason.”

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Amanda Limbaugh
Amanda Limbaugh
17 hours ago

It’s heartbreaking that this athlete who works hard and devotes herself to the purity of the sport can be so poorly treated. I hope her unfortunate experience is a pathway for change so that others do not endure her anguish. I hope she returns to the sport in some capacity to prove her value.

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