FINA has suspended Russian swimmer Vitalina Simonova for 4 years, dating back to June 29th, 2015, after a positive test for the banned substance Testosterone.
The test, conducted by WADA in an out-of-competition doping control on June 29th, 2015, came during a training camp in Naoussa, Greece.
Simonova admitted after the test to purchasing a vile of Testosterol in a local store, which she provided a picture of. She claims that during the training camp, her own nutritional supplement stocks were running low, and so she, her coach, and a Greek coach got together, and on recommendation of the Greek coach, she visited a nearby sports store to purchase additional supplements.
At the store, she was advised by a Store manager to use the substance. She also provided an unopened sample (aka, a “blister pack,”) of the substance to a laboratory in Belaruse, which showed the presence of another banned substance, DHEA, which is not listed as an ingredient of the Testosterol.
She also argued that the delay in notification of the positive test made it harder for her to provide evidence in her own defense.
While a positive test where there is no fault or negligence by part of the athlete can reduce a suspension to as little as a warning, the burden of proof is on the athlete and determined by a “probability of the evidence.” The FINA Doping Panel, in its official decision, lays out a meandering and confusing argument for giving the maximum 4-year penalty, concluding that while they believe it’s probable that a tainted supplement caused the positive test, they believe that it was Simonova was “careless and intentionally took the risk of ingesting a product which contained a prohibited substance.”
They also cited the name of the product, which bears a linguistic similarity to the anabolic agent testosterone, as evidence that Simonova should have know that it could have contained banned subtances.
Testosterol is not supposed to contain the anabolic agent testosterone, but the manufacturers claim that it is a “natural” supplement that boosts testosterone production.
Simonova, who is 24-years old, will forfeit all results and prizes since the positive test, which include:
- A silver medal at the Singapore World Cup stop in the 200 breaststroke
- A silver medal at the Bejing World Cup stop in the 200 breaststroke
- A gold medal at the Chartres World Cup stop in the 200 breaststroke
- A gold medal at the Moscow World Cup stop in the 200 breasttroke and a bronze in the 100 breaststroke.
- A 7th-place finish at the 2015 World Championships in the 200 meter breaststroke
Simonova is the Russian Record holder as part of the mixed 400 medley relay and in the 200 short course meters breaststroke (2:18.03), both of which times were done in 2014 – before her positive test.
Now Russia’s two fastest 200 meter breaststrokers in history have both tested positive – with the other coming from Yulia Efimova, who has now tested positive twice and is awaiting a final decision on her participation in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.