United States National Team swimmer Madisyn Cox has been given a 2-year doping suspension after Trimetazidine appeared in an out-of-competition doping test. The test was conducted on February 5th, 2018. Her period of sanction begins on March 3rd, 2018, the date of her last race, and ends on March 2nd, 2020.
Trimetazidine is classed by the World Anti-Doping Association as a Class S4.5.3 substance – Hormones and Metabolites. The substance can be used medically to treat tinnitus and dizziness in some countries, though it has fallen out-of-favor in those cases, and angina (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart). The latter is the reason that China’s Olympic champion and World Record holder Sun Yang claimed to have been taking it when he was suspended in 2014. The substance has been a subject of fluctuating status within the World Anti-Doping Code over the last 5 years.
In a statement released to SwimSwam on Friday morning, Cox says that the positive test was for an “unfathomably low” amount, and that she had “never heard of this substance prior to receiving the test results.” A FINA anti-doping panel found that Cox is “an honest, very hardworking and highly credible athlete who is not a ‘cheat,’ and also said that they believed her testimony to be true. That allowed them to reduce the sanction from 4 years to 2 years.
The panel also found, however, that she was not eligible for a further reduction based on a “no fault” finding because she could not prove a “likely source” of the substance.
Cox says that she believes that she ingested trace amounts of the substance through drinking tap water in Austin, Texas, saying that “the presence of pharmaceuticals like Trimetazidine in U.S. drinking water is well documented,” but that the levels in Austin had not been sufficiently studied. While a study on the tap water in her apartment came back clean, FINA says, that is not conclusive enough to prove or disprove contamination. Cox does say that she is looking into whether it’s possible to have those tests done, and whether to appeal her case to the CAS. FINA also noted that because Trimetazidine is not FDA approved in the United States, it ‘may not be as widely used’ as other drugs, indicating skepticism about whether it would be found in municipal water supplies – which has been a well-documented finding over the last decade.
“I have not taken and will never take short cuts to be the very best,” Cox said. “I have been training this entire past year to compete at U.S. Nationals with the goal of representing my family, team and the United States at the Pan Pacific Championships and the 2019 FINA World Championships.”
Cox, who swam collegiately at the University of Texas, is a member of the 2017-2018 U.S. National Team as a result of performances in the 200 and 400 IM. At the 2017 World Championships, she won gold as part of the American 800 free relay and bronze individually in the 200 IM.
Cox had been ominously absent from meets since the Pro Swim Series in Atlanta in early March, in spite of being entered in several meets and not racing. Cox is entered in 5 events for US Nationals, including as the #2 seed in the 200 IM, but barring an unprecedentedly-fast appeal to the CAS, won’t be eligible to race.
Her results from that Pro Swim Series stop in Atlanta are forfeited, including the prize money she took via two wins and a third-place finish, adding up to $2,200.
Cox is the 2nd member of the U.S. National Team to be sanctioned this season for doping, along with Amanda Kendall. A member of the U.S. Junior National Team, Matthew Willenbring, has also been sanctioned. The relevant anti-doping authorities (USADA and FINA) have declared the ingestion to be mitigated to reduced sentences from the maximum 4 years in all 3 cases.
Cox’s Full Statement:
FINA made public earlier today that I’ve been sanctioned for two years because I unintentionally ingested a prohibited substance, Trimetazidine, an unfathomably low amount of which was detected in an out-of-competition urine sample provided on February 5, 2018. I had never heard of this substance prior to receiving the test results.
The FINA Hearing Panel reviewed all of the evidence, including lab reports demonstrating very low parts per billion concentrations of the prohibited substance in my sample. A world -renowned biochemist who reviewed my case compared the extraordinarily low level detected equal to “a pinch of salt in an Olympic size swimming pool.” At such a trace level, the substance provided me with no performance benefit of any kind.
The FINA Hearing Panel considered (1) the low level in my urine, (2) that no Trimetazidine was detected in my hair sample, and (3) my in-person testimony. The Panel found that I was “an honest, very hardworking and highly credible athlete who is not a ‘cheat.’” They believed my testimony, stating that my case was “highly credible.” As a result, the Panel reduced the sanction from a potential four year period to two years – which has happened only one other time in history.
Unfortunately the Panel determined that I was not eligible for a finding of “No Fault” because I could not prove the “likely source” of the 0.1 ng/ml of Trimetazidine in my urine. While the scientific expert who reviewed my case believes that I unknowingly ingested the Trimetazidine through tap water consumed the night before the test, the Panel determined that more scientific evidence was needed to prove this. The presence of pharmaceuticals like Trimetazidine in U.S. drinking water is well documented, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has studied the levels of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of certain cities across the United States. Also unfortunately for me, there haven’t been any studies like this done in Austin, Texas, where I live and train.
The Panel noted that “contaminated water” was certainly a possible source of the banned substance, but it could not find that it was the “likely source” without more testing data on the presence of pharmaceuticals in the Austin, Texas water supply. I currently am looking into whether such testing is possible. I also am considering whether to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Since my test result, I have learned the hard way about the harshness of the anti-doping rules. Because a microscopic amount of a prohibited substance was detected in my urine, I am sanctioned for two years despite the FINA Hearing Panel finding that my ingestion was unintentional and that I am not a “cheat”.
I am devastated. I honestly believed through this entire process that I would receive a No Fault ruling, due to the strength of my case, a completely clean hair sample, dozens and dozens of clean tests and a history of carrying myself with honor and integrity throughout my academic and swimming career. I stand on my personal and competitive reputation.
I have not taken and will never take short cuts to be the very best. I have been training this entire past year to compete at U.S. Nationals with the goal of representing my family, team and the United States at the Pan Pacific Championships and the 2019 FINA World Championships.
As I endure these next weeks and months, I would anticipate and appreciate your understanding, and hope you respect that this statement is complete and stands as my only public comments at this time.