Last May, Gil Roberts, an American gold medalist sprinter at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, was suspended after failing a drug test in March when probenecid was found to be present in his test samples. Prior to this failed test, Roberts had passed over a dozen intermittent tests since 2008.
Several months later, in July, the sprinter fought the suspension and took his matter to arbitration.
Seems like a typical sequence of events, right?
Well, when one takes a closer look at the arbitration decision that was publicly released, some interesting details become apparent which set Roberts’ defense slightly apart from typical defenses raised in objections to failed drug tests.
According to the decision, Roberts “testified that he did not intentionally take probenecid and that he did not mistakenly take … capsules.” So how did he account for the probenecid showing up in his test samples? He blamed his girlfriend’s sinus infection and his engagement in “frequently and passionately” kissing her prior to providing his failed sample:
On March 24, 2017, the date of the drug test, Ms. Salazar (Roberts’ girlfriend) arrived at Roberts’ apartment near noon; they kissed and ‘chilled out.’ Around 1:00 or 1:30 pm, she went into the kitchen to take her medicine [which she had recently obtained in India after getting a sinus infection during a family trip]. She did not tell Roberts what she was doing and he did not see her take the medicine. She opened the capsule, poured the contents in her mouth, then washed it down with water. Shortly thereafter she found Roberts and started kissing him. Roberts could not count the number of times they kissed between 1:00 pm and the doping control officer’s arrival.
The doping control officer arrived at 4:07 pm.
Given these facts, as well as previous decisions regarding similar circumstances, the arbitrator reversed Roberts’ suspension after concluding “this was not a case of intentional doping,” rather it was “a case of incidental doping caused by kissing.”
This decision was later appealed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, however, yesterday the Court of Arbitration for Sport sided with Roberts’ defense.
The New York Times reported the following on this matter:
‘There could have been tongue kissing, but it was more that she kissed me so soon after taking the medicine,’ Roberts said Thursday, expressing relief that he had evaded a ban of up to four years for trace amounts of probenecid, a masking agent prohibited by sports regulators for its ability to disguise other drugs.
Three arbitrators wrote that it was more likely than not ‘that the presence of probenecid in the athlete’s system resulted from kissing his girlfriend.’ A different decision could have jeopardized Roberts’s Nike sponsorship, or his eligibility for the 2020 Olympics.
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**Image from CBS / Getty Images**