Roland Schoeman Speaks for First Time Since Doping Suspension Announced

South African swimmer Roland Schoeman, an Olympic gold medalist, has made his first public statement since FINA announced that he has been sanctioned for testing positive for a banned substance.

Schoeman received a one year ban, that began in May, after testing positive for the banned substance GW501516. The World Anti-Doping Agency categorizes GW501516 as a ‘hormone and metabolic modulator’, alerting athletes in 2013 that the substance failed medical trials and was a toxic threat to health if used as a performance enhancer. (Washington Post)

In the statement, Schoeman said that he believes that the positive test came as a result of a tainted supplement, though he says that by the time he was notified of his positive test, all of that month’s supply of supplements were gone and unable to be tested.

Even without proof of a tainted supplement, FINA still reduced Schoeman’s punishment from the maximum 4 years for a first time offense. By rule, the 4 years are reduced to 2 years if the hearing body believes that it was not intentional, and generally to reduce further than that requires an athlete to prove a source of accidental ingestion. As an example, American swimmer Madisyn Cox initially had a 2-year doping suspension given out by FINA. It was only after she identified the source of contamination, a specific supplement she was taking that was able to be tested for contamination, that she had that suspension reduced to 6 months. FINA, however, has reduced Schoeman’s suspension from 2 years to 1 year, even without identifying a source of contamination. FINA has not responded to requests for the full Doping Panel decision to illuminate why they chose to give Schoeman only a 1 year penalty.

Schoeman has thus far declined to answer questions from SwimSwam, and punctuated his statement on Friday that this would be his final word on the matter.

Schoeman did offer in his defense that he believes 2 prior tests and 2 later tests that came back clean as evidence of contamination because the detection time for GW50516, also known as Cardarine, is 40 days. “So, had I been intentionally taking it, all five tests would have proved positive.”

Schoeman also admits that this ordeal has changed his perspective on other athletes’ claims of accidental ingestion.

“I used to think the world of illicit supplementing was straightforward. That you either took supplements or you didn’t. And frankly, I disbelieved other athletes when they claimed contamination. I now know from painful experience that it isn’t quite that simple.”

Schoeman says that he is now recording batch numbers and retaining a portion of each supply of supplements so that if he has future positive doping tests that he can check for contamination.

The 39-year old Schoeman was a member of the South African team at the 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games. He won an Olympic gold in 2004 as a member of South Africa’s 400 free relay, and that year he also took silver in the 100 free and bronze in the 50 free individually. He also had 3 long course World Championships, all in individual events, and is a former World Record holder in 5 events.

South Africa has not yet announced their selection criteria for swimming at the 2020 Olympic Games; however, Schoeman’s suspension expires on May 17th: after the South African National Championships (traditionally their Olympic Trials), but well before the Olympic Games.

Roland Schoeman‘s Full Statement is Below

“Dear followers and supporters, you will by now know that the International Swimming Federation (FINA) applied a one-year suspension to me. This resulted from testing an out-of-competition urine control sample on 18th May 2019, which tested positive for two metabolites of GW50516 (Cardarine) which is a hormone and metabolic regulator. The suspension ends on May 17th this year.

I want to share the full story with you, so there’s clarity and because I’m very mindful of my responsibility as a role-model for younger swimmers.

As athletes, our bodies are our livelihood. And as is the norm, we all use a range of nutritional supplements to keep the body in the finest possible condition.

In May last year I was taking a variety of supplements, all carefully selected, to avoid any possibility of inadvertently dosing on something not allowed. I was not at all concerned about providing a urine sample as I had been tested dozens of times previously, both in and out of competition, and all such tests had been negative for banned subtances. I had tested negative for any such contamination in two tests before May 2019 and for two tests immediately after the one found to contain a trace of the substance. Regretfully, by the time FINA notified me of the positive test, there was none of that month’s supplement supply left.

I would never knowingly take a banned substance and much less a substance known to carry cancer, heart attack and stroke risks. At my own expense, I paid for testing of new batches of the supplements I’d been taking, to track down the source of the problem. This proved to be unsuccessful.

It’s important to note that FINA would normally apply an automatic two- or four-year ban for doping based on the evidence. I sat in Lausanne with FINA officials for over seven hours, answering any and all questions. It’s testament to FINA’s understanding that this was possibly inadvertent cross-contamination, that I received only a one-year ban.

I have never, in my decades of competition, taken performance enhancing substances and never would. The minimal concentration of Cardarine in my urine – just 1.3 nanograms – is confirmed by lab technicians and experts to indicate that this could have been caused by product contamination. The detection time for just one dose of Cardarine, is up to forty days. So, had I been intentionally taking it, all five tests would have proved positive.

I have always aimed at retiring from competitive swimming one day, with an unblemished record. This incident has been personally devastating and very stressful because I can say with hand on heart, I have never knowingly taken any banned substance. Those who know me, know my long-term commitment to clean sport.

To prevent any possible repeat of the situation I am now recording batch numbers and keeping a quantity of pills and powders aside, from whatever batch I take, so they can be independently tested should any sample abnormalities ever again be detected.

I used to think the world of illicit supplementing was straightforward. That you either took supplements or you didn’t. And frankly, I disbelieved other athletes when they claimed contamination. I now know from painful experience that it isn’t quite that simple.

At the FINA hearing I pledged my support irrespective of what their sanction was. I asked FINA if I can assist in educating upcoming athletes on the real risks of taking supplements, as well as the safety measures we now know need to be in place. I’m also involved in the development of a supplement information app that will assist tested athletes in the future.

It remains my ambition to compete in the Olympics this year, if possible. My commitment to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and fairness in all sport, remains undimmed.

I don’t want to engage in endless discussion about this matter because my focus needs to be on training and doing what I do best. This statement, with your kind understanding, will therefore please serve as my final word on the matter.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support. Yours very sincerely, Roland.”

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FINA/swimming still coddles
4 months ago

Why did he only get a one-year ban? (Regardless of whether or not you ‘believe’ him, and I might, this is a real question.)

That is pretty pathetic.

Runner Shelby Houlihan is currently serving a FOUR YEAR ban for a positive test, similar claiming “contamination” but with no proven or even suspected source.

4 years ago

I have been a big fan and this sucks. In following him, he really does seem to care about people and mental well being in general. All about being positive and feeling good about yourself. Love his posts. What this drug does, and the randomness of this drug contaminating his supplemental regimen seems to be a reach. I think he’s a good dude, and will continue to be so, but this is unfortunate. True or not, it’s a thing now. Bummer…

Reply to  Woodrow
4 years ago

I think a lot of your remarks are hurtful,although I do not know Roland as long as maybe some of you I believe him to be a fine young Man and I believe he will have may opportunities in his life and hope to hear that he will still go to the olympics and win win win and finish on a high note and then start a new chapter in his life,so Roland get yourself together we miss you in the pool Marisa

4 years ago

FINA should just force everyone who’s failed a drug test to take a lie detector test to see if they intentionally doped or not. That way there are no questions about cases like those of Schoeman, Jack, Yang, etc.

Reply to  leisurely1:29
4 years ago

Yes because lie detector tests are famously 100% reliable.

4 years ago

I’m curious if there is anyway to find out the dates of the previous tests and post tests? Specifically with the post tests, he says the testing was done immediately after the positive test was discovered. Does anyone know how long it takes a test to be completed after it is taken? To me, it seems fishy that a test would be done, and then the next test would not have been done within 40 days of the previous test (or at least withing 40 days of the end of May when his tainted supplement supposedly ran out). Admittedly, I’m ignorant to the schedule of this sort of thing so would appreciate any insight from swimswam or others.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification on his statement, and for the time periods of the other tests

4 years ago

Such a strange coincidence that he ran out. Of “tainted” supplement and it couldn’t be tested

4 years ago

Without giving an opinion on Schoeman’a innocence or otherwise, as far as I can see he hasn’t proven anything. Unlike Cox, he hasn’t been able to point to a contaminated batch and identify where the substance came from. If Shayna Jack is in a similar situation and gets a 2/4 year ban (basically anything longer than a one year ban), I can only conclude that the system is nuts and makes no sense.

Reply to  Swimmer
4 years ago

Definitely. It’s really unjust that the same violation can get majorly different penalties depending on the organisation handling the case.

4 years ago

This should be just the catalyst Roland needs to Get fired up and rise to the top of his game again and qualify for South Africa 🇿🇦 Olympic team in 2020.

Captain Ahab
4 years ago

Sad, super talented swimmer. According to my research, the GW 501516 (That he allegedly had in his system) increases endurance, increases explosiveness, and makes you lean without hard dieting. Reportedly the best endurance formula on the planet right now. I am wondering if other older swimmers are using something much stronger and have doctors to help them pass the test.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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