|Canadian wheelchair sprinter Jeff Adams has been suspended from competition for two years after testing positive for cocaine. (Sun Media File/Perry Mah)
Top Canadian wheelchair racer Jeff Adams is appealing a two-year suspension for cocaine, claiming a contaminated catheter caused him to flunk a drug test at the 2006 Canadian wheelchair marathon championship.
Adams and lawyer Tim Danson said yesterday that disabled athletes who use catheters suffer discrimination during doping control because they are expected to use their own, potentially non-sterile, catheters for urine collection.
"It's frustrating that everybody seems to be agreeing that this is a result of contamination, but I'm still being treated as a cheater," Adams said. "Does the punishment fit the crime?"
Because of the positive test, Adams also is ineligible to receive federal sport funding for life.
According to the World Anti-Doping Code, cocaine is not banned out of competition.
Adams, 36, said he involuntarily ingested the drug a week before the race, in May 2006, after a woman stuck cocaine in his mouth in a bar. He said that at the marathon he used the same catheter he had used the night of the alleged incident at the bar. A couple drops of leftover urine would be enough to taint the catheter when used later, experts said.
During drug testing, athletes who use catheters have the option of asking the doping control officer for a new one.
"Certainly if an athlete requested a sterile catheter we would provide it," said Paul Melia, president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Sport.
"It's our experience with athletes with disabilities that they prefer to use their own catheter for personal hygiene and comfort reasons, so we've accommodated them in that way. It seems odd to turn around and try to use that against the system when something like this happens."
Melia said that cocaine, a stimulant, could enhance athletic performance. Adams said it would not.
Danson will appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as file a complaint with the Ontario and federal human rights commissions.
"My job as an athlete is over, my job as a public speaker is over, my job as a volunteer is over," Adams said. "I remember the worlds in Edmonton, the sound of the Canadian crowd, how magical that was. And I remember the sound this one kid made when I took him out of his wheelchair and put him in my racing chair. I promise you I'm going to miss the sound that kid made more than the sound of the crowd."
Adams said he had passed hundreds of drug tests throughout his career. He is a four-time paralympian and six-time world champion. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Brampton athlete won five medals, including two gold.