Olympian avoids 4-year doping ban after showing positive test came from dog's medicine

FAYETTEVILLE, GEORGIA - JANUARY 28: Katerina Nash of Czech Republic competes during the 73rd UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships Fayetteville 2022 - Team Relay / #Fayetteville2022 / on January 28, 2022 in Fayetteville, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Katerina Nash had an extraordinarily minute amount of a banned susbtance in her system. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

If you're ever looking for an example of just how sensitive modern doping testing has become, consider a case that quite literally went to the dogs.

Katerina Nash, a Czech athlete who has competed in five different Olympics as a cyclist and cross-country skier, avoided a four-year doping ban after the USADA determined a positive test for a banned substance was caused by contact with her dog's medicine, the USADA announced Thursday.

The 45-year-old Nash reportedly tested positive for capromorelin in an out-of-competition urine sample provided on Oct. 24, 2022. The substance is not specifically on the WADA's list of banned substances, but it still falls under the category of other substances related to human-growth hormone and is prohibited by the federations relevant to Nash.

Then Nash explained what happened.

How an ailing dog led to an Olympian fighting doping allegations

During the three-month USADA investigation into her case, Nash provided the organization with records of prescription medicine for her dog, a Vizsla named Rubi who was ill, per the Associated Press.

The medicine contained capromorelin and was intended to stimulate Rubi's appetite. Nash told the USADA that she had difficulty administering the medicine to Rubi orally each day, leading to the medication frequently landing on her bare hands. The medication reportedly didn't contain any warnings of contamination for transdermal exposure.

The USADA didn't take Nash at her word, though. Because scientists are nothing if not dedicated to gathering data, a group of them, including USADA lead scientist Dr. Matt Fedoruk, conducted a study by splashing the same medicine on their hands and later found themselves to have the same trace amount, 0.07 ng/ml (parts per trillion) that Nash had in her urine sample.

The results cleared Nash and prevented her from being sidelined until 2027.

The USADA notes there is no threshold for capromorelin, so any detection would mean an adverse finding, even when the amount works out to less than a drop in a swimming pool. The organization called for a revision preventing such cases from being announced to the public, as this doping saga will still be attached to Nash's name.

From the USADA:

“If there is no question that an athlete comes into contact with a prohibited substance from a completely innocent source and there is no effect on performance, USADA continues to advocate that there should not be a violation or a public announcement,” said Travis T. Tygart, Chief Executive Officer of USADA. “The rules must change and all of us must wake up and demand a more fair and just global anti-doping system that catches and sanctions intentional cheats who rob clean athletes but does not railroad innocent athletes.”

Nash, who was still temporarily suspended from competition and her position as president of the international cycling federation's athletes commission, was understandably shaken by how close she came to being labeled a doper, but told the AP she didn't regret anything:

“It’s devastating to think that, like, not washing my hands could ruin my entire career, being an athlete for 30 years,” the 45-year-old Nash told The Associated Press. “But there’s no regrets. I would not have cared for my dog in any different way. But in the end, I was touching this medicine every day for about three straight weeks.”

Sadly, Rubi eventually had to be put down. Nash reportedly got the call about her positive test about a month later.

The AP notes this story is just one of several cases of athletes facing the anti-doping federation's wrath for frankly ridiculous reasons, with other stories including the use of an over-the-counter sunscreen, eating tainted meat and having sex with a person with banned substances in their system.

Nash said she was careful for those reasons, and still ended up here:

“It’s so ironic because I have taken this seriously,” said Nash, whose first Olympics was in 1996. “I don’t take supplements. I have, for the most part, just stuck with what (a single nutrition-bar company) produces because that’s been successful and I know where it’s made. And here I am, just being punished for taking care of my dog.”

Nash has competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Nagano in 1998, Salt Lake City in 2002, London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She finished one spot short of a medal in Salt Lake City as part of the Czech Republic's 4×5 kilometer relay cross-country skiing team and finished fifth in the mountain bike race in Rio.