Sports Doping: A Cautionary Tale

Here’s a heartbreaking story from the world of competitive swimming.

U.S. athlete Madisyn Cox has received a two-year suspension for sports doping.  During an out-of-competition test, she tested positive for Trimetazidine.

Trimetazidine is a drug used to treat cardiovascular conditions.  The World Anti-Doping Agency has defined it as a “hormone and metabolic modulator” and a prohibited substance.

Here’s the problem.  Cox states “I had never heard of this substance prior to receiving the test results.”  A biochemist who reviewed her case compared the detected amount to “a pinch of salt in an Olympic size swimming pool” – a trace amount that would have provided no performance benefit.

A FINA Hearing Panel (the international water sports federation) found Cox to be “an honest, very hardworking and highly credible athlete who is not a ‘cheat.’”  Because of this, they reduced her suspension from four years to two years.  However, FINA upheld the sanction because Cox could not prove a “likely source” of the substance.

Where else would the Trimetazidine have come from?  Cox believes she ingested trace amounts of the substance from drinking tap water in Austin, Texas.  Numerous studies have warned about the increasing presence of discarded and excreted pharmaceuticals in our drinking water, though Trimetazidine has not specifically been identified.

This blog takes no position on what actually happened.  A study of Cox’s tap water came back clean, which FINA says “is not conclusive enough to prove or disprove contamination.”

What I will say is that Agilent provides testing and analysis solutions for environmental labs and sports doping labs.  Agilent equipment is used by both WADA-certified U.S. labs.  SMRTL uses Agilent GC/MS and QQQ GC/MS systems.  UCLA uses Agilent GC and single-quad MS systems.


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