January 25th, 2013
Could this be the best doping denial ever attempted by an athlete?
Fatima Yvelain, a middling middle-distance runner from France, tested positive for EPO after competing in the 2012 Perpignan half-marathon. Yvelain was 42 and her best days (she once won three consecutive French national 5,000m titles) were long behind her. Caught out, Yvelain decided to concoct an outrageously improbable explanation, presumably on the grounds that the authorities would refuse to believe that anyone would have the brass neck to try and con them with such an unlikely tale. Like all good shaggy dog stories, it started with a kernel of truth – there had been torrential rain on the day of the race – and then span wildly off into the realm of farce. The water streaming over the road, Yvelain argued, must have washed through "unidentified medical waste" which had been discarded "at an unspecified location" on the course. While she was running, this EPO-tainted water had splashed up from her shoes and soaked her shorts, which had then run off into her urine when she was asked to give a sample after the race.
At this point, I hope that the appeal panel hearing her case rose to their feet and gave her a round of applause. I mean, how do you even start to prove her wrong?
"But of course!" agreed the French Athletics Federation. And then they banned her from competing again for two years.
C'est la vie.