World Record holder Yulia Efimova has tested positive for the substance DHEA, according to state-run R-Sport. The test came in October in an out-of-competition sample.
Russian Sport minister Vitaly Mutko objected to the original report, saying that it was “a premature statement and completely wrong, without reflecting the facts.” Mutko believes that the positive test was the result of a legitimate prescription that Efimova has. DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is not illegal per se (in the U.S. it’s legal as an “old dietary ingredient), but it is banned by WADA, who once called it “an anabolic steroid like testosterone and THG.”
Mutko’s initial statements did not dispute whether Efimova tested positive for the substance, rather he believes that she has a legitimate medical use.
Per the WADA Code, however, which can be read here, (list of banned substances here), DHEA is classified as an “Endogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroid” when applied exogenously (aka, when not produced naturally by the body), and therefore it cannot be a Specified Substance because of its classification. This means that the fact that Efimova had a prescription for the substance, on face value, should not be enough to face suspension. Note that this is not her only possible defense, rather it is the one that the Russian sport minister has made.
Examples of the type of objective circumstances which in combination might lead a hearing panel to be comfortably satisfied of no performance-enhancing intent would include: the fact that the nature of the Specified Substance or the timing of its ingestion would not have been beneficial to the Athlete; the Athlete’s open Use or disclosure of his or her Use of the Specified Substance; and a contemporaneous medical records file substantiating the non sport-related prescription for the Specified Substance. Generally, the greater the potential performance-enhancing benefit, the higher the burden on the Athlete to prove lack of an intent to enhance sport performance.
DHEA has been the culprit in many very high-profile doping cases, included baseball slugger Manny Ramirez, NBA player OJ Mayo, and 2008 Olympic 400 meter champion Lashawn Merritt, who received a 21 month suspension after a positive test of his own.
The test came after the 2013 World Championships where Efimova won the 50 and 200 meter breaststrokes and after she broke the World Record in the 50 breast in long course, but before she broke the 50 SCM and 200 SCM breaststroke World Records.
The Russians have confirmed that the test did not take place in Russia, but as Efimova was likely in the United States at the time, the USADA would be the organization that would have likely conducted it. The USADA has no test records for Efimova in 2013, but the 4th quarter, in which this test is claimed to have happened, is not yet available to the public. Efimova was tested by FINA in April of 2013, but no adverse findings have been announced from that test.
Efimova spends most of her time training in the United States at the Trojan Swim Club; three members of the 2012 Russian Olympic Swim Team have already been suspended for positive tests of banned substances.