Once again we get the report of another positive drug test. This time it’s Lashawn Merritt who according to his press release inadvertently used a product that contained DHEA. While it depresses me that, yet again, we have an individual testing positive in this sport it’s more depressing that this is a situation that clearly could have been avoided with a little knowledge.
Judging from the reports, this is a matter where Mr. Merritt clearly wasn’t using a product to improve his performance on the track. However, with the sport having a policy of strict liability when it comes to substances that one puts into their body, it is imperative that he, or any other athlete, be completely knowledgeable about any and all substances that they ingest. It doesn’t matter if they are over the counter or prescription medications, vitamin supplements or foods that one is not familiar with. Athletes MUST be aware of what items contain before putting them into their bodies!
I am disappointed with the response of USATF CEO Doug Logan who has chosen to castigate Merritt and focus on the negative when instead this is a moment that should be used for educating Merritt, and in turn the rest of our elite athletes on just how perilous the day to day use of ANY substance can be without proper knowledge! Throwing Merritt or any other athlete under the bus does not fix this problem! Clearly the programs in place at USATF are not getting the job done, and that is where our CEO should start. Merritt is not the first to make such a silly mistake, nor will he be the last, unless we find a way to make sure that our athletes are armed with all the information they need to make the correct decisions.
So my message to the athletes and coaches is this. Let’s stop making foolish mistakes! Not only is your reputation on the line, but so is that of USA Track and Field as both an organization and a sport. We already have a reputation that has been sullied by drug scandals and innuendo. We can ill afford any further negative publicity OR the loss of critical potential medal earners.
Make sure that you are completely aware of the chemical make up of anything that you eat, drink, or even rub on your bodies. Make sure that you have the most current list of banned substances in your possession. Clear ANY items you may intend to put into your body with your physician and USADA. When you are travelling and in unfamiliar locales make sure you check ALL items for what they may contain before ingesting. Your livelihood, your career, is constantly at stake.