Paula Quirós, 31, an Argentinian XC rider who finished 28th at the 2019 World Championships, has been suspended by the UCI after returning a positive test for EPO.
EPO (Erythropoietin) stimulates the production of red blood cells and has banned in and out of competition since the 1990s. It is the drug that was at the centre of the Festina Affair
and was used by Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Team.
The current World number 39 returned her Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) on March 7 after finishing second in a race in Araxá, Brazil, just before the country's lockdown for COVID-19. Quirós was told about her results at the end of October and has been provisionally suspended for four years and could also face a fine.
An architect by trade, Quirós had hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, although she will now likely face a lengthy suspension for the infringement however, she is hoping to reduce her suspension as she claims she took the drug involuntarily.
In an interview with El Territorio
, she revealed that she initially believed the test was false and was going to ask for a second sample but she was contacted by her coach, Ignacio Gili, who said he had injected her with EPO. He gave her the injection in January while the pair were at a high-altitude training camp and apparently told her it was iron and vitamin B12. Regardless of the reason for the AAF, Quiros remains ultimately responsible for the substances in her body as laid out by WADA's Strict Liability rules
but special circumstances can be taken into account when sanctions are handed out.
Quiros told the paper, "This is very hard, but it makes me realize that you have to know how to choose a coach well, whatever the situation ends up being partly my responsibility. The worst of all is to think that I don't know if it was just that time, I already doubt everything."
She continued, "He ruined my life, but he is going to take care of everything, but the damage has already been done, what do I do now? How do I start again? Because it's going to be my name, my family's name, and not all people are going to know the real story. It's very serious."
Thanks to pb user @sgvmtb
, who forwarded on this statement from Quiros' coach Ignacio Gili in which he now denies giving Quiros EPO. Note, the quote has been translated from Spanish and edited for clarity.Given the facts that are in the public domain, in which I am accused of having supplied a prohibited substance to an athlete that I directed, it is my duty as a sportsman to give my version of what really happened.
It is true that, for the month of January of this year, on the occasion of training in altitude, and for this I assume full responsibility, I advised and gave the athlete an injection of B12 and iron, in order to strengthen her immune system.
My responsibility is assumed by having administered medication not being a medical professional, but due to my state of health it is what I always place myself on and I believed that it would best help with recovery before the effort.
According to the athlete's statement, it was on that occasion that I gave her that contaminated medicine, however, the anti-doping tests were carried out in March, in Brazil, when she was accompanied by her whole family, with me as assistant and coach. Although I accompanied her and advised her on the entire training plan, I never gave her any program of the substance that appeared in her anti-doping analysis, and even less could it appear in the analysis almost three months after the placement of the vitamin (for more than it had been contaminated).
For honor and so that the family and authorities did not have reproach with the athlete, whom I appreciate, I referred to her father who took me in charge of all responsibility and consequence. I did not think that this gesture would be taken with such fury. [I was] pretending to be the one who has the responsibility that I do not have, the athlete is 31 years old, she did not live with me, she is fully responsible for her actions, I never gave her any substance beyond that opportunity, and it was not prohibited or doping medicine.
I am at full disposal to safeguard my good name and honor in this sport that I love, I have no responsibility whatsoever in the actions of my directed, and I will occur before the courts to disclaim all responsibility.
Quirós has submitted her explanation to the UCI disciplinary court and has requested that the test be annulled or her sentence be reduced. We have contacted Quirós for comment and will update this story hear more.