Irish sprinter Steven Colvert has been forced to withdraw from the European Team Championships in Tallinn, Estonia this weekend due to an adverse finding for EPO in an out of competition test on May 20.
Colvert was set to compete in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay but his ‘A’ sample was found to have an “adverse analytical finding” for the substance “recombinant erythropoietin” more commonly known as EPO and typically used by distance runners as a performance enhancing drug.
The Crusaders athlete narrowly missed out on the London 2012 Olympics in the 200m by two hundredths of a second, running 20.57 seconds – just shy of the 20.55 required. He is adamant he has never taken the substance or any other performance-enhancing drug. Colvert, a third year law student in DCU, is now looking to get his ‘B’ sample tested to clear his name and find out what led to the positive test.
Speaking exclusively to the Irish Examiner yesterday, Colvert, who has season’s bests of 20.90 for the 200m and 10.58 for the 100m, explained the series of events leading to his positive test and the measures he will take to clear his name.
“I was in an exam in DCU on May 20 when drugs testers from the Irish Sports Council met me outside the exam hall and notified me that I had to take an out of competition test and I duly provided urine and blood samples. I thought nothing of it until I was informed two days ago [June 17] that there had been an adverse analytical finding for EPO in the urine sample only.
“It all just feels like a really bad dream or a horrible prank.”
“In general I don’t take any supplements except for during that exam period where I took a generic multivitamin [Activ-Max], which can be bought off the shelf in Aldi because I was feeling run down from my exams. I also took an iron supplement called Galfer which I purchased over the counter in a pharmacy. I took one tablet of each supplement two days before the test.
“I normally don’t take any supplements. I source my protein from whole foods such as eggs, meat and cheese. I don’t take any recovery or energy drinks or creatine or any supplements in general.”
“I’m going to seek to have the B sample tested along with giving my full co-operation to the Irish Sports Council and all the relevant bodies involved in the investigations. I’m happy to provide any extra drugs tests, provide financial statements and take any forensic test above and beyond what’s required in order to vindicate my name. I firmly believe there has been some sort of error or false positive.
“I’m part of the programme in which they keep all of my samples for 10 years and I’m happy to go back and let them test every single sample ever provided – both in competition and out of competition.”
“Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I’m sure there are people who will want to burn me at the stake for a failed ‘A’ sample. Personally I would be suspicious of someone who has failed an ‘A’ sample so I understand where people will be coming from when they read this.
“Most people’s natural inclination is to think that a person is guilty but there are a number of cases in the past where an ‘A’ sample has been a false positive. Olympic 1500m silver medallist  Bernard Lagat failed an A sample for EPO in 2003 and the B sample proved that it was a false positive. There are many athletes who have had similar cases for the same substance and been vindicated.
“I’m flabbergasted by the findings. If it was pseudoephedrine or a stimulant that’s easily found in things like Lemsip then I could try and remember had I inadvertently taken something.
“I’m coming forward with this finding because I have nothing to hide and I’m happy to have complete transparency into the whole ordeal.”
What is EPO?
Erythropoietin, more commonly know as EPO, is a drug that boosts your red blood cells and as a result your oxygen carrying or aerobic capacity. While some sprinters have been found to have adverse findings for the substance, it is more commonly taken by endurance athletes such as distance runners and cyclists. Human Growth Hormone and steroids would be more typical performance enhancing drugs taken by 100m and 200m sprinters.
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