South African Olympic swimming gold medalist Roland Schoeman says he still has the ambition to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Games despite serving a one-year suspension after testing positive for a banned substance.
Governing body FINA said Schoeman tested positive for the prohibited substance GW501516, a hormone and metabolic modulator, at an out-of-competition control on May 18 last year. Schoeman, 39, issued a statement on Saturday, blaming his positive test on a contaminated batch of supplements, adding the levels found were trace amounts and his tests immediately before and after the positive result were clear.
"In May last year I was taking a variety of supplements, all carefully selected, to avoid any possibility of dosing on something not allowed," his statement said. "I had tested negative for any such contamination in the two tests before May 2019 and for two tests immediately after the one found to contain a trace of the substance. "I would never knowingly take a banned substance and much less a substance known to carry cancer, heart attack and stroke risks."
Schoeman believes the fact he was handed a one-year ban, rather than the usual two-to-four year suspension, "is testament to FINA's understanding that this was possibly inadvertent contamination."
Gold at the 2004 Athens Games
He said the positive test was "personally devastating and very stressful", adding that he "disbelieved other athletes when they claimed contamination, but I now know from painful experience that it isn't quite that simple." Schoeman won gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay at the 2004 Athens Games, plus individual silver and bronze medals in the 100 and 50m freestyle.
He also competed in 2000, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and says he retains the goal of going to Tokyo, with his ban to be lifted in May. "It remains my ambition to compete in the Olympics this year, if possible. My commitment to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and fairness in sport remains undimmed," he added.