Canoe star Laurence Vincent Lapointe found not guilty of taking banned substance
Canadian Olympic hopeful can return to training, competition immediately
An International Canoe Federation anti-doping panel ruled Monday that Canadian athlete Laurence Vincent Lapointe did not knowingly ingest an illegal substance and has cleared her to return to training and competition.
The 2020 Olympic hopeful, who faced a four-year ban, was found to have trace amounts of Ligandrol in her system after failing an out-of-competition doping test last July. Ligandrol is used to treat conditions such as muscle wasting and osteoporosis and is considered to have effects similar to anabolic steroids.
Vincent Lapointe, 27, said she is now ready to gear up for the Summer Games in Tokyo that begins in July.
"You can't even imagine how relieved I am," she told reporters at a news conference in her hometown of Trois-Rivières, Que. "It feels good to put an end to this journey and just be able to concentrate on what I love, and get back on the water to prepare for the [Olympic] Games.
"It's amazing. I'm ready. I'm aiming for the Games."
Vincent Lapointe's lawyer, Adam Klevinas, added the World Anti-Doping Agency and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport have the right to appeal the decision. They have 15 days to request the full decision.
WATCH | Vincent Lapointe on determining the source of her positive test:
In a news release, the ICF said it has "accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe's evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination."
Vincent Lapointe told Radio-Canada recently that the trace amounts could have come from bodily fluids exchanged with her former boyfriend as Ligandrol can be transferred through saliva, sweat and semen.
Radio-Canada learned that the 11-time world champion and Klevinas told the ICF as much in December when she went before the anti-doping panel in Lausanne.
Additional tests 'returned negative'
After Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended on Aug. 19, Klevinas and other members of her team pored over the test results and analysis. Klevinas then turned to a lab in Strasbourg, France, Radio-Canada reported, where it was discovered through hair analysis that the canoeist's former boyfriend had consumed a product containing a significant amount of Ligandrol.
Subsequent examination by Vincent Lapointe's team confirmed the trace amounts in her body could be related to her then-boyfriend.
"[Vincent Lapointe's] result returned negative," Klevinas said, "which meant that she had only been exposed to the product once."
WATCH | Family is top priority for Vincent Lapointe:
The former boyfriend later admitted to also using another substance, SR9011, which he had hidden. A large amount of this prohibited substance, Radio-Canada learned, was found in the SR9011 sample during analysis.
"Finally," Klevinas told Radio-Canada, "he admitted to me that he had taken it the evening of July 25 before a soccer practice. And Laurence was tested on the morning of the 29th."
My mental state is much better. I plan to work on more technique on how to get myself ready for competition. The pressure's going to be crazy for the Olympics.— Canadian canoe star Laurence Vincent Lapointe
"He did soccer for fun," Vincent Lapointe told CBC Sports on Monday of her ex-boyfriend, whom she dated for many years. "He told me he was taking a supplement for side training but never mentioned anything else, so I didn't think more about it. I don't think he even knew he was using something that could affect me."
To secure an Olympic spot, Vincent Lapointe said she must meet qualifying standards within Canada, perform well at the May 7-10 Pan American canoe sprint championships in Curitiba, Brazil, and then re-qualify within Canada.
Missed world championships
During her suspension, Vincent Lapointe continued to train on her own and believes her hard work going forward will help her regain any lost fitness.
"My fitness level [is] a bit lower [for this time of year] but my mental state is much better," she said. "I plan to work on more technique on how to get myself ready for competition. The pressure's going to be crazy for the Olympics.
"But I have so much [energy] for training right now. I think it's going to help [me] going back on water and just doing the best I can every practice. I'm going to give [an Olympic push] everything I've got."
A suspended Vincent Lapointe was forced to miss the canoe sprint world championships in Szeged, Hungary, in August that doubled as a Tokyo Olympic selection event.
At the time, the "shocked and devasted" canoeist vehemently denied voluntarily consuming Ligandrol and revealed she had "done everything possible" to determine the source of the prohibited substance to prove she is a clean athlete."
WATCH | Vincent Lapointe: 'It's been a nightmare':
"I am a person of integrity and any form of cheating disgusts me," Vincent Lapointe told reporters at the time, adding she receives her products from the National Team Training Centre. "I believe in clean sport, and it is what I apply as a principle in my life as an athlete.
"I would never put my name, my reputation or my career at risk to improve my performances and widen the gap with my opponents."
On June 1, 2019, Vincent Lapointe won a gold medal in the women's C1 200-metre event at a World Cup in Duisberg, Germany, for a second consecutive week following a victory in Poznan, Poland.
WATCH | Laurence Vincent Lapointe wins women's C1 200 in Germany:
She has won six C1-200 world titles, four C2-500 gold medals and one C1-5000 championship in women's canoe sprint, which will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
"We are thrilled that Laurence was cleared of any wrongdoing and can return to training with the team in Florida," Canoe Kayak Canada chief executive officer Casey Wade said in a statement Monday.
"This has been a very difficult period for Laurence, her partner Katie Vincent and the entire team of paddlers who have demonstrated such strength and tenacity over the last five months. We look forward to building our momentum as a team to podium success in Tokyo."
Vincent Lapointe's Olympic dream began as an eight-year-old watching synchronized swimming from the 2000 Sydney Summer Games on television before she switched to canoe years later.
Gracenote, an international data firm, has predicted Vincent Lapointe will win two Olympic gold medals this year.
With files from The Canadian Press