By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Colombia’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles champion Robert Farah has escaped a doping ban after an ITF investigation accepted his claim that he ingested a banned steroid through contaminated beef cooked by his mother.
The 33-year-old was found in breach of Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) after a urine sample provided in October was shown to contain low concentrations of Boldenova — an anabolic steroid banned by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).
An intentional doping violation can carry a four-year ban under TADP Article 2.1 but the ITF said there was no ‘fault or negligence’ attached to the world number one who could continue his career having been provisionally suspended since Jan. 21.
Canadian-born Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal were the ATP’s doubles team of the year in 2019 after becoming the first Colombians to win a Grand Slam doubles title.
He pulled out of the Australian Open for personal reasons before announcing the failed anti-doping test.
“Mr. Farah’s account of how the Boldenone entered his system was accepted and it was determined that he bears no fault or negligence for the violation within the meaning of Programme Article 10.4,” the International Tennis Federation said in a statement on Monday.
“Where a finding of no fault or negligence is made, Programme Article 10.4 provides that any otherwise applicable period of ineligibility shall be eliminated entirely.”
The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), who analysed the sample taken from an out-of-competition test, could appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
“Thank you for the belief and support I received,” Farah, who in 2018 received a suspended three-month ban for promoting a gambling website on social media, said on Twitter.
Farah accepted that he had committed an anti-doping violation, the first of his career, but successfully argued, through detailed evidence including from cattle ranchers and government officials, that it was unintentional.
In a report of the TADP investigation, Farah claimed he had eaten beef the night before the test at his mother’s house in Cali and that it had contained residue of boldenone injected into the cow as a growth promoter prior to slaughter.
He insisted he had “no intention of trying to cheat” and that he did know that eating the beef could result in an anti-doping rule violation.
In a sworn statement, Farah’s mother said she had purchased one kilogram of ‘solomillo’ (a beef cut known in English as sirloin) at her local supermarket before cooking it and eating it with her son and his fiancee and a family friend.
She said her son ate 500 to 600 grams of the beef.
In another sworn statement a Colombian government official responsible for agriculture confirmed that boldenone is permitted for use in livestock in Colombia.
The ITF confirmed that Farah had been tested 10 times between March and October in 2019, all negative.
In its findings the ITF said WADA had never flagged up warnings to athletes about eating Colombian beef.
It accepted that it was at least 51% likely that the 500 to 600 grams of beef Farah consumed on Oct. 16, approximately 11 hours prior to providing his urine sample, was the source of the very low concentrations of boldenone and its metabolite subsequently found in his sample.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)