I am certain that you have heard about Olympic wrestler Stephany Lee, who has been banned from the London summer games for her use of cannabis. She has spoken publicly and here are her words.
The American wrestler Stephany Lee, who qualified for the Olympic team but will miss the London Games after testing positive for marijuana, said that she was a regular user of the drug but that she thought she stopped smoking in time to provide a clean urine sample at the Olympic trials in April. She said that she quit using marijuana two weeks before the trials — “the longest I ever quit before a competition,” she said — and that she was surprised to learn of the result from the United States Anti-Doping Agency several weeks later.
Lee accepted a one-year suspension from Usada, which made the announcement on Thursday. USA Wrestling has nominated Ali Bernard to take Lee’s place in the 72-kilogram (158½-pound) weight class, subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee board. Bernard, who finished fifth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, lost to Lee in the final at this year’s Olympic trials in Iowa City.
Lee said she had had 16 consecutive negative tests since 2009, when she tested positive for marijuana at the prestigious United States Open. Lee won that event, too, only to have the title revoked later. She said she stopped using marijuana about five days before that competition. Since then, Lee said, she usually stopped using marijuana at least a week before a major competition, where athletes are regularly tested for drugs. Lee celebrated her trials victory by getting married two days later in Iowa to her longtime girlfriend.
While she said she did not “fit into the box” of model, marketable Olympians, she stopped short of saying that her homosexuality or previously publicized marijuana use played a role in what she felt was an oddly timed positive test. “I’m more angry than anything at myself,” Lee said. “I’m disappointed for the people I’ve let down that have been behind me. I’m sad. I could have stopped earlier. I could have prevented this.” I wonder if she could have asked for a retest of her sample? This does not pass my smell test.
Lee said she used marijuana for medicinal purposes, helping her with insomnia, stomach problems and anxiety. But she has never filed for a therapeutic-use exemption — which athletes who use banned medications can do — assuming Usada would not approve her request. Besides, she reasoned, she never used it at competitions, stopping well short of wrestling meets. “It’s not performance-enhancing,” she said. “How is this improving my performance?”
In that, her situation recalled that of the Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, whose gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics was temporarily rescinded when he tested positive for marijuana use. After much debate, he was given the medal back because marijuana, at the time, was not on the list of banned substances. Which raises the question: Should it be now?
The answer is “no.” This article was originally in the NY Times and is by John Branch. Find it here.
images: Google image Stephany Lee]
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