Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's runner David Freake used prohibited substances, sports ethics agency says

The Canadian Centre of Ethics in Sport says a St. John's runner has accepted a four-year ban after testing positive for certain substances, including ephedrine and EPO.

He cannot compete or train with teammates until October 2023

David Freake says he is going to appeal a four-year sports ban after failing a drug test. (David Freake/Twitter)

The Canadian sports organization that oversees the enforcement of doping violations says a St. John's runner has accepted a four-year ban after failing a drug test that involved prohibited substances, and is discounting his explanation that an over-the-counter product was to blame. 

David Freake told CBC News last week that he took oral nasal decongestants — medication that he says he didn't know was banned. 

Freake initially said he planned to appeal the ban.

However, the Canadian Centre of Ethics in Sport said Tuesday that Freake "had accepted the proposed sanction" which is in place until Oct. 10, 2023. 

Paul Melia, CEO of the Canadian Centre of Ethics in Sport confirmed that Freake had waived his right to a hearing.

A urine sample collected during a race on May 26 showed the presence of a compound called GW501516.

"It's not completely random, but we don't get into publicly discussing the different variables that we use to decide the testing," said Melia.

"The athlete is a member of Athletics Canada, subject to the rules of Athletics Canada including the Canadian anti-doping program. [He] would have been educated on rights and responsibilities associated with that. So, we carried out the testing on this athlete at that event."

Health Canada says that particular compound "may be abused by some athletes for performance enhancement." 

In a 2013 advisory, Health Canada said people should contact the branch of government that oversees health products if they find GW501516 in the marketplace.

The CCES also found 2-4-dinitrophenol in Freake's urine sample. Health Canada, in an advisory issued in 2018, told people to not to buy or use that substance

"More commonly known as DNP … it is toxic and can cause death," Health Canada said in a Sept. 20, 2018, news release. 

"Products containing DNP are primarily marketed towards bodybuilders and are promoted online as a 'fat burner' or 'shredder' and for 'weight loss.'"

One of the substances found in Freake's urine sample could be used for athletic 'performance enhancement,' stated Health Canada in an earlier advisory. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Both GW501516 and 2-4-dinitrophenol are prohibited substances, according to the agency. 

Freake also tested positive for ephedrine and recombinant EPO, said the agency.

"I don't think it's at all possible that those other three, beyond ephedrine, would have [been] in any oral, nasal decongestant," Melia said. 

George Stanoev, the technical director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Athletics Association, said the organization is deeply disappointed and embarrassed by the situation, he told CBC News.

He said drug use has no place in athletics and cited local runners who have made a splash on the national running scene, like Colin Fewer and Kate Bazely, as good role models who represent the province with pride. 

No events, no training

The ruling means Freake is ineligible to participate with any sport associated with the Canadian Anti-Doping Program, including training with teammates. 

"I believe in a clean sport and love competing. I respect the CCES and all that they do," Freake said in an email to CBC News last week. 

CBC News on Tuesday asked Freake to comment on the CCES's full report. He has not yet responded.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

with files from Janelle Kelly and Meg Roberts