Sprinter Torri Edwards admitted in a statement Thursday that she tested positive for a banned stimulant during a meet in the French West Indies on April 24 but plans to argue during an arbitration hearing Monday -- a day after the conclusion of the U.S. Olympic trials -- that she inadvertently consumed the substance in glucose tablets given to her by her physical therapist.
Edwards, who won the 100-meter title here and intends to compete in the 200 this weekend, could receive a two-year suspension and be banned from the Aug. 13-29 Olympics for the positive test for nikethamide. If she can convince the arbitration panel that the use was unintentional, she might receive only a public warning and disqualification from the meet in which she tested positive.
Edwards is free to compete pending the outcome of her hearing, but the positive test brings another dose of bad publicity to a sport smack in the center of the drug scandal surrounding Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO).
Her agent, Emanuel Hudson, said Edwards ingested what she believed were glucose tablets given to her by Christopher Vincent, her physical therapist and chiropractor, during the meet. Hudson said she routinely takes what are essentially sugar tablets for energy during competition. He also described energy drinks such as Powerade as an example of "liquid glucose."
The glucose product Vincent purchased at a sundry store near the hotel was labeled Coramine Glucose, Hudson said. He said Vincent and Edwards assumed the product was typical of the glucose sold in the United States. Only after Edwards was informed she tested positive did they learn, Hudson said, that coramine is the same as the banned stimulant nikethamide. Hudson said the package did not list nikethamide among its ingredients. He also said the product was available only in France, its provinces and Vietnam.
"Torri Edwards's career is in the balance as a result of a stupid mistake by her physio, by a guy she relies on," Hudson said. "If you are going to intentionally dope, you don't wait and rely on that to do it."
Vincent could not be immediately reached to comment.
In recent years, the world governing body of track and field (IAAF) has upheld a policy of strict liability, holding athletes responsible for anything they ingest regardless of intent. Since the IAAF adopted the World Anti-Doping Code in March, the ban for first-time stimulant offenses, which used to be just a public warning, was stiffened.
Don Catlin, the director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, said nikethamide was used until about 15-20 years ago to treat barbiturate overdose patients who were unconscious. Catlin said intravenous solutions of saline, glucose and nikethamide were administered to stimulate respiration, but the practice has been abandoned. Nikethamide shows up on the standard IOC drug screens, Catlin said, but described the stimulant as an unusual one.
"It's not common," he said. "It's not like pseudoephedrine or ephedrine or even amphetamines. It's a rare one."
Hudson noted that Edwards did not contest the charges, waiving her right to have her "B" sample tested to ensure that it matched up to the "A" sample. IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said the IAAF nonetheless had the "B" sample tested to confirm the result.