Ottawa (Canada) August 21: Canadian canoeist Laurence Vincent Lapointe says she won't cast aside a 15-year Olympic dream she has put her heart and strength into realizing next summer in Tokyo.
The 11-time world sprint champion is facing questions over her recent positive test for the muscle-building substance Ligandrol and could also face public criticism for recently failing a doping test.
"I'm not going to abandon that dream," the 27-year-old, who at times appeared on the verge of tears, told reporters Tuesday at the Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. "We're going to try and resolve this as quickly as possible and find out where the substance came from.
"But I don't want it to be the end for me, so I'm going to keep going."
Vincent Lapointe will not compete at this week's canoe sprint world championships in Szeged, Hungary, after failing an out-of-competition doping test and has been provisionally suspended, pending the outcome of her case that is expected to be heard over the next few months, according to her lawyer Adam Klevinas.
Women's canoe sprint is set to make its Summer Games debut in 2020 at Japan and Vincent Lapointe, who faces a possible two-year suspension, had hoped to be there.
'It's been a nightmare'
Ligandrol, which is not available over the counter, is taken orally as a tablet and is on the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It works in a similar way to testosterone and anabolic steroids and can be detected for up to 21 days in the urine of those who take it.
"I've been winning for almost 10 years now," Vincent Lapointe said. "I know I can beat all of these women with my own strength. With everything I've done, I don't understand how I would have wanted to risk everything with the Olympics coming.
"I have no idea how [Ligandrol] got [in my system]. We're working to find it. I just cannot believe it. It's been a nightmare. . Everything I have worked for has been destroyed."
Vincent Lapointe pointed out the national training centre purchases the supplements for its athletes and stressed she has never bought or taken supplements on her own.
The first positive test was confirmed on Aug. 13, two days before the second sample was tested in Montreal on Aug. 15 and confirmed as positive the following day.
Klevinas said there is the possibility of cross-contamination, meaning Vincent Lapointe could have made contact with the banned substance through the sharing of a utensil, cup or water bottle of someone who had ingested Ligandrol.
"We have to look at every scenario. It doesn't just appear in the body, so we have to find out where it came from," Klevinas added. "What we know is that the concentration that was found in Laurence's sample is compatible with contamination [and] we're confident it's not because Laurence intentionally took it."
Too early to lay blame, says lawyer
Klevinas said he planned to test all of the containers of sealed supplements from the same lot that Vincent Lapointe used in order to determine if they contain any traces of Ligandrol.
He said he thought it was too early to point fingers at the National Team Training Centre, the company that supplied the supplements or the lab that tested them.
"Right now, her case is in front of the International Canoe Federation," Klevinas said. "We need to found out where [the Ligandrol] came from so she can be admissible to the Olympic Games next year, and after that, we'll see the steps we need to take."
Ligandrol has been the subject of recent established tainted supplement cases, according to Canoe Kayak Canada (CKC), which stated preliminary information supports that Vincent Lapointe's positive test result may have been caused by inadvertent and unknowing use of a prohibited substance from such a source.
While the canoe sprint world championships are the primary qualifying event for the Olympics, Signa Butler of CBC Sports believes Vincent Lapointe has probably achieved enough in her recent performances to have reached the standard.
Vincent Lapointe won her third World Cup gold medal of the season on June 1 in the women's C1 200-metre event in Duisberg, Germany. That followed a double gold effort the previous weekend in Poznan, Poland, where she took the C1 200 event and teamed with Katie Vincent to win the C2 500-metre final.
International Canoe Federation media and communications manager Ross Solly said "it is very much up to Canoe Kayak Canada to now decide how they will proceed" that will determine when a hearing would occur.
"Sentencing will depend on the severity of the case [and] any mitigating circumstances," he told CBC News. "Athletes from all sports have alleged in the past that they have taken contaminated substances. The onus is on the athlete to prove this, and then we can determine the correct and fair approach."
Olympic dream began as 8-year-old
In a news release on Monday, CKC said it "fully supports" Vincent Lapointe and will pursue all avenues to help the athlete prove her innocence.
"CKC firmly believes in clean sport, but we also have strong reason to believe that Laurence has taken all of the necessary precautions from an anti-doping perspective and that she has not knowingly or intentionally taken a prohibited substance," said Canoe Kayak Canada CEO Casey Wade.
Vincent Lapointe has won six C1-200 world titles, four C2-500 gold medals, and one C1-5000 championship. She has also had success at longer distances as evidenced by her 2018 victory in the C1 5000 and at the under-23 level with a gold medal in the C1 200 at the International Canoe Federation world event.
In 2010, Vincent Lapointe served notice on the international scene by winning a pair of gold medals in the C-1 200 and C-2 500 at the world championships in Poland.
Five years later, she prevailed by more than two seconds to post a winning time at the Pan Am Games, hosted by Toronto.
Her Olympic dream began as an eight-year-old watching synchronized swimming from the 2000 Sydney Summer Games on TV before she switched to canoe years later.
Vincent Lapointe said she hopes no one has tampered with her samples, especially not a competitor within the paddling community.
"Women's canoe has been underrated, to say the least, and I feel like we've come so far," she said of her training partners and competitors worldwide. "I love the people I train with and race against. For years now, I've been working very hard to be the best, and I've had a lot of women who I was supposed to race against this week write me and tell me they believe in me.
"But whether I'm cleared or not [of any wrongdoing] or whether I win at the Olympics or not, there will always be someone out there who doubts [the positive test] was [accidental] and I'm going to try to ignore that. I know I didn't do anything [wrong] and I have nothing to hide, and I just hope people believe me."
Source: CBC News