Michael Brinegar Receives 4 Year Doping Suspension, Causing 1500 Free Scratch At Trials

Tokyo Olympian Michael Brinegar is out of the men’s 1500m freestyle heats on the final day of prelims at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)’s allegations of blood doping during a three month period in 2022. This means that Brinegar is facing a four year ban.

The USADA’s claim is that Brinegar, now 24, was blood doping based on test results from June, July, and August 2022 after the 2022 World Championships that were higher than benchmark for Erythropoietin (EPO).

Brinegar had originally been slated to compete at those Worlds, but withdrew after contracting COVID-19 and says that tests came during “a period I was not training.”

In that same statement, Brinegar says that he was made aware of the allegations via email from the USADA “24 hours before [he] was about to swim the 1500 on the first day of the international team trials in Indianapolis one year ago” at 2023 U.S. Nationals.

This means that on June 26th, Brinegar would have received an email notifying him there were abnormalities in his Athlete Biological Passport that resulted in an Adverse Passport Finding. The USADA deems an Adverse Passport finding as dependable information to open a case against an athlete.

This was period was three months before Brinegar began training at Ohio State in October 2022. Since then, Brinegar has moved to train at The Swim Team with Mark Schubert, who he has trained with on and off for the last nine years. Brinegar officially rejoined TST after 2023 U.S Nationals.

Brinegar shared that he was told by USADA that if he contested the finding, he would face a four year ban that would be reduced to two years if he did not contest. He says that he was also informed that “if I turned in anyone else, my sentence could be reduced an additional year.”

“I was devastated. But knowing that I had not cheated, I chose to fight,” he said.

An independent arbitrator ruled in Brinegar’s favor in November 2023 but USADA appealed the decision to CAS. CAS’s decision to uphold the USADA’s original findings came down yesterday on June 22nd, the day before Brinegar was scheduled to race the 1500 freestyle in Indianapolis.

UPDATE: If an athlete decides to contest a USADA finding, the first step in the process is an independent arbitrator. In this case, the arbitrator ruled in Brinegar’s favor in early December 2023, which is why he was eligible to race at the Portugal Open Water World Cup that month.

Schubert told SwimSwam,

“As the coach of Michael Brinegar for the past nine years, am completely in support of his innocence. It makes no sense that an athlete would blood dope during an eight week break (not training) while recovering from COVID. This period Is when he was tested. Additionally I am shocked that USADA would offer to reduce his sentence to two years if he did not fight the suspension . Why would an innocent athlete agree to that offer?” Further more they offered a further reduction of penalty if he turned in athletes who he knew were cheating. Why would an innocent athlete agree to these offers? I support Michael and the Brinegar family in their fight against USADA and these unfair accusations.”

Brinegar finished 17th in prelims of the 400 freestyle (3:51.53) and 12th in the prelims of the 800 freestyle (8:00.15) earlier at Trials. He was seeded third in the 1500 freestyle.

Below is Brinegar’s full statement as well as what he shared on Instagram.

Michael Brinegar’s Full Statement: 

“As an Olympian and the son of an Olympic swimmer whose U.S. Women’s team faced an East German team that was systematically doping, cheating is a betrayal of everything I have been taught and stand for. I am deeply disappointed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS’s) ruling and USADA’s accusations that are utterly unfounded.

Almost exactly one year ago, 24 hours before I was about to swim the 1500 on the first day of the international Team Trials in Indianapolis, I received an email from USADA. In the email, USADA claimed that test results from July, August and September 2022 were proof I was blood doping. I could not believe what I was reading. If I contested the finding, I would be subject to a 4-year ban, or the ban would be reduced to two years if I did not contest the finding. In addition, if I turned in anyone else, my sentence could be reduced an additional year. I was devastated. But knowing that I had not cheated, I chose to fight.

Despite always testing negative for any banned substances, USADA suggests I was blood doping during a period when I was not training and when I was recovering from COVID-19. I had been preparing to compete in my first 25K at the World Championships in Budapest at the end of June, but I withdrew from Worlds as a result of contracting COVID. Given that I was already missing the biggest meet of the year, it is absurd to suggest I would engage in blood doping afterward while taking my first extended break from training in years.

I have never taken any banned substances and my commitment to competing on a fair and level playing field is unwavering. After an independent arbitrator initially ruled in my favor in late November 2023, I turned my attention towards fulfilling my dream again of representing my country at the Paris Olympics. In early January, I received notification that USADA was appealing the arbitrator’s decision in my favor and must prove my innocence once more. I tried to refocus and began training for the pool events and was looking forward to competing in the 1500 in my home state.

Once again, approximately a year later, 24 hours before I was to swim the 1500 in prelims, I received an email yesterday stating that CAS found in favor of USADA. I am devastated that I cannot compete today due to CAS’s ruling based on flawed assumptions and a misinterpretation of the facts.

I will continue to seek justice in this matter and thank everyone for their support and understanding during this challenging time.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Michael Brinegar (@michaelbrinegar1)

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Mark Kendrick
23 days ago

He doesn’t clearly say- I did not dope.

999
25 days ago

CEO of EPO

Keep it Movin'
26 days ago

Since no scientific facts are presently available, we can only examine history and this particular set of circumstances.
History suggests most athletes are lying about getting caught.
Circumstances suggest the athlete had no reason to cheat give his lack of competitive appearances.
I read the comments to learn more than what the article informs us. But, one really has to track through a lot of manure to find the truffles of truth.

Ron
26 days ago

If you look into the coaches background, he has been involved with Chinese swimmers letting them train with the national team at Mission Viejo. It’s possible him and his coach blood doped intentionally knowing they could use Covid as an excuse if he got caught. The coach is a very suspicious character known to be involved with a lot of speculative things.

IUSwimMan
27 days ago

I cannot fathom how USADA essentially gets three bites at the apple in these cases. Once when they bring the case, once at arbitration after a bogus “confess or receive double punishment” ‘settlement’, and again if an INDEPENDENT arbitrator finds against them. Yet the athlete really only gets one shot. In any other arbitration, sports or otherwise, an independent arbitrator makes a decision, it is final. Makes no sense to me.

Snarky
Reply to  IUSwimMan
27 days ago

You need to read up on the process before ranting.

https://natlawreview.com/article/demystifying-athlete-biological-passport

IU Swim Man
Reply to  Snarky
21 days ago

My “ranting” is about the process of the litigation/judgement/final outcome process that USADA is given multiple chances, and the athlete faces enhanced punishments for fighting back and only gets one shot to defend him or herself. Not to mention the absurdity of “anytime, anywhere” for the testing. I suppose USADA makes up for it by handing out buttons and jackets for passing enough of their “anytime, anywhere” tests.

It was not about the process of a biological passport, which your link almost solely focuses on. Perhaps it would benefit you to actually read what I said.

Just sayin'
27 days ago

Does anyone think it’s time to reign USADA in? When we get too good at our testing perhaps we start to really condemn innocent athletes. This one makes no sense to me! Would it really make sense for an athlete to dope and take 8 months off and not train while recovering from long Covid? And how are we condemning him (who has no positive test) while 25 Chinese swimmers popped positive tests with no punishment? I don’t know if he and Kensey doped or didn’t dope but it seems like our testing needs to be dialed down a bit so it’s not quite so sensitive…

Stingy
Reply to  Just sayin'
23 days ago

I’m pretty sure if you look at another comment section someone brought up how USADA does LESS testing compared to other nations

Free bro
27 days ago

Current studies are showing that when someone has long covid or covid in general, cortisol levels drop; the body’s “natural steroid”. It really could be that the body’s bone marrow is pushing out more EPO to compensate for this. Just a thought. Time will tell. So much is wrong with this story

Goldspeaker
Reply to  Free bro
26 days ago

I agree. If they found something it must have been due to Covid. I can’t believe they dropped this on Michael 24 hours before the most important swim in his life. So unfair.

Stingy
Reply to  Free bro
23 days ago

How do you know for sure though?

Ain’t it like those other contamination stories where it’s impossible to tell who’s telling the truth?

Sunday Morning Grind
28 days ago

You’re telling me I can’t just find EPO at my local hotel breakfast buffet??

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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