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On Wednesday, the news broke that Katie Compton had been given a four-year suspension by the US anti-doping agency (USADA). It was announced that she had been tested positive for an anabolic agent on 16 September 2020.
Arguably the most successful American cyclocross racer to date. Katie is 15-time US National champ, 5x world championship medallist, and two-time cyclocross world cup overall winner. Sponsored by Trek since 2012, the news came as a shock to many. Her husband, Mark Legg announced that 2021 would be her final season of racing back in December 2020.
Releasing a statement prior to the news going public, she said she has never intentionally or knowingly put anything like that into her body. Here is the full statement:
This news comes with great heartache and sadness, and it is the worst possible way to end my cycling career. I need to preface this news with the fact that I have always been a clean athlete, I am proud of how much I have accomplished racing clean and being very careful with whatever I put into my body, especially after dealing with so many health issues throughout my life.
I provided a sample for USADA in September 2020 that came back negative for any banned substances. It was not even atypical. That news was communicated to me in the same way it has always been via a letter from USADA. I’ve received that same letter after every test I’ve submitted for the last 19 years. In early February of 2021, after returning from a difficult race season, I learned that the same sample from September was re-analyzed due to a bio-passport irregularity. It was found to be positive for an exogenous anabolic steroid. This was devastating news to me as I have never intentionally or knowingly put anything like that into my body. I know how delicate women’s hormones are. I would never choose to take anything to jeopardize my health and, as a result, suffer irreparable damage to my endocrine system. And not only that, I never took anything for ethical and moral reasons. I’ve been a strong proponent of clean sport my entire career and feel doing anything to enhance one’s own natural ability is cheating, full stop.
Despite deciding to retire in March, I also felt the need to try and defend myself and my reputation. I hired a lawyer and did my best to investigate how the substance got into my system but was unsuccessful in finding that answer. Over the past six months, I learned that I cannot prove that I didn’t intentionally take anything, and I can’t afford to keep fighting knowing the outcome will be the same regardless. Unfortunately, seeing that it was five months between the sample collection and the notification, trying to figure what allegedly got into my body proved to be impossible. I have decided to stop fighting an expensive and difficult battle and accept the sanction. So, it is with great stress and sorrow that I’ve ended my competitive career. My friends and family know how much I’m against doping, and know it is a topic in which I have always been outspoken. This news is gut-wrenching to me and the worst period I’ve ever experienced during my life so far.
I’ve processed all the emotions over the past year and realized that I don’t need bike racing in my life anymore. I still love riding my bike and enjoying that with friends, but I have no desire to ever race or be competitive again, which is probably good since the sanction includes a four-year ban from competition.
I wanted to share this news prior to USADA releasing it to the public so you hear it from me first. I’m obviously stepping away from the competitive cycling world for the next few years. I don’t know what my future within the sport may look like post sanction, but I want people to know that I’ll miss the racing community. Specifically all the amazing people I’ve met along the way who simply share the love of riding bikes. I’ll always cherish the experiences and wonderful adventures cycling has given me while also acknowledging that it has brought me plenty of heartache and disappointment. I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. Ending my career this way is simply soul-crushing. It physically hurts and makes me incredibly sad.Katie Compton
Mark Legg’s Statement
Her husband, Mark Legg posted on Facebook, sharing both her statement and what has been happening since the news. The day before posting his statement he shared a Facebook status that read, “I’ll be posting a statement later today. I’ll just say this.100% stitch-up.”
Katie was tested in September 2020 using the last ball bearing bottle aka the Beringer bottle which was taken out of use due to the Icarus documentary on Russians swapping out urine samples which came back negative. This contrasts what USADA has stated. In early January I contacted an ant-doping agency regarding issues in cyclocross. We had a video conference with the agency while we were in Belgium on January 19th. Hours after the call a lab in LA started re-testing Katie’s Sept sample that had previously been declared negative.
The result of the retest was positive for exogenous testosterone. We received news of this test mid-Feb. We were devastated and confused. Katie used the same supplements all season and was tested as usual in and out of competition with no issues. We’re now both taking anti-depressants to cope with the mental stress. We’ve both had depression and suicidal thoughts over the past months. Fortunately, we sort help for our mental struggles. We hired lawyers and fought this as hard as we could afford until we couldn’t keep throwing money at a hopeless situation.Mark Legg
Doping in Cycling
The result came after her urine was analysed using specialised Carbon Isotope Ratio testing. The USADA have said that Katie has been, “…disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to September 16, 2020, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.”
CX magazine posted a follow up to the story from Bruce Hildenbrand that highlighted the issue of current testing. It gives insight into costs for tests and how the cheaper tests can easily miss substances. Ross Tucker from Science in Sport has responded on Twitter when asked how steroids may be ingested accidentally.
The full thread gives his thoughts on how this can happen to athletes and the advice they are given about supplements.
Many of Katie’s family, friends and fans are in support of her. KFC is someone who has been very vocal about doping in the past. Especially in the case of Denise Betsema a Dutch cyclist who had a positive doping test back in January 2020.
Many people have expressed disbelief and support with others saddened over the news. It’s unclear what the outcome may be given the time that has passed. In both statements, Katie and her husband said that they had hired lawyers to fight this, but are unable to fund it any further.
If you’re interested in reading about the history of doping – and the fact that once it was seen as incumbent on pro riders to dope in order to achieve the best possible results at all costs – we highly recommend Spitting in the Soup. We don’t recommend reading The Descent by Thomas Dekker, but we do recommend reading Hannah’s review of it.
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