The pole vault world champion was allowed to compete after it was determined he unknowingly ingested the substance during a hotel tryst with a woman he met online
Canada’s pole vault world champion Shawn Barber failed an in-competition drugs test for cocaine at the Canadian national championships in July after accidentally ingesting the substance during a sexual encounter he arranged through Craigslist.
The 22-year-old was permitted to compete in Rio after it was determined by the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) that he had inadvertently taken the substance after kissing a woman he had met through the website in a hotel room who had taken the drug minutes before.
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the body which oversees the country’s various anti-doping programmes, had originally proposed a four-year ban for a first anti-doping rule violation.
However, the SDRCC determined on August 11, just two days before Barber was due to compete in his Olympic qualification, that he had “satisfied the burden of establishing, on a balance of probability, that he bears no fault or negligence in committing a violation…”
The SDRCC’s decision reads in part: “The evidence showed that Mr. Barber did not know or suspect, and could not have reasonably known or suspected, even with the exercise of utmost caution, that he was at risk of ingesting a prohibited substance by kissing W [the woman in question].
“He had no way of knowing, and had no reason to suspect, that W had ingested cocaine before their sexual encounter, nor that she could possibly contaminate him with a prohibited substance.”
Barber is said to have been seeking a ‘casual encounter’ through the classified advertisement website. The woman in question testified in the hearing, claiming that she had taken half a gram of cocaine and consumed a 26-ounce bottle of vodka before meeting him at a hotel in Edmonton. The SDRCC decision stated that she testified because she felt “horrible about what happened” and would hate to be the reason for the athlete not achieving his dream.
The decision continued: “On or about July 8, 2016, the day before he was to compete at the Canadian Championships and Rio selection trials in Edmonton, Alberta, Mr. Barber posted in the ‘casual encounter’ section of Craigslist, an on-line service. He used a pseudonym. He specified in his post that he wanted to meet a woman who was drug-free and disease-free.
“He also indicated that he wanted a ‘professional’ person. Mr. Barber testified that the purpose of his post was to ‘find a partner for the week or weekend’ as ‘a way to relieve stress’. He acknowledged under cross-examination that his purpose was to have a ‘sexual encounter of some sort’ if all went well. He stayed away from bars and clubs because of their association with drugs and alcohol.”
The CCES said in a statement: “Shawnacy Barber, an athletics athlete, was determined to be at no fault or negligence for an anti-doping rule violation. The athlete’s urine sample, collected during in-competition doping control on July 9, 2016, revealed the presence of cocaine.
“In response to the CCES’ notification of the adverse analytical finding, Mr. Barber promptly admitted the anti-doping rule violation and a hearing was held to determine the appropriate sanction.”
In a statement, Athletics Canada said: “First and foremost, Athletics Canada is pleased to see the system works, CCES and the anti-doping program are important pillars in ensuring clean and fair sport. The positive finding in this case was found to be of no fault of the athlete.
“We are thankful that the proper procedures recognized the presence of a prohibited substance, but also in ensuring due process to the athlete in coming to a fair and reasonable decision.
“As per the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada ruling a review and consideration of the evidence presented by the parties in this matter lead the Panel to conclude that the athlete has satisfied the burden of establishing, on a balance of probability, that he bears no fault or negligence in committing a violation.”
Barber endured a disappointing Olympics, finishing 10th just one year after taking a shock World Championships gold in Beijing.
Athletics Canada has confirmed that Barber has been stripped of his Canadian title and championship record from July 9.
“I want to thank the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada for the expedited work they did on my case and their professional handling of the case from start to finish,” Barber said in a statement. “I am obviously satisfied with the result of the hearing where I was found to have Zero Fault.
“I am happy to have this behind me so that I can move on with my career with a free conscience. At no time during my actions, did I even fathom the possibility of being able to be contaminated with cocaine. This is a learning experience that I hope other athletes can learn from as I have. I want to thank my support staff and most of all my fans that have supported me through the years and I hope will continue to do so.”
The SDRCC’s full decision can be found here.