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'Small flame' ignited Canada's Vincent Lapointe through acquittal on doping charge

Laurence Vincent Lapointe credits a "weird little flame" inside her for helping her stay strong when it looked like her Olympic dreams would be dashed.

11-time world champ won case after showing failed test caused by ex-boyfriend

Canoeist Laurence Vincent Lapointe smiles as she speaks during the news conference where she was cleared by an anti-doping panel and allowed to return to competition and training. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian PRess)

Laurence Vincent Lapointe credits a "weird little flame" inside her for helping her stay strong when it looked like her Olympic dreams would be dashed.

The star Canadian canoeist faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event's Olympic debut in Tokyo after testing positive for the steroid-like substance Ligandrol last July.

However, the 11-time world champ won her case last week after persuading a tribunal that the test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her then-boyfriend. The decision by the anti-doping panel, convened by the International Canoe Federation, allowed her to return to training and competition.

Speaking Wednesday on a conference call, Vincent Lapointe recalled how she refocused her energy at a retreat last October. At the time, things looked dim as she was searching for answers.

"I felt like I had this small flame come up and just stay strong within me," she said. "That told me that I'm going this year to the Olympics and that's why I'm going to win. Even though I had no reason to think that and no idea where the confirmation could have come from, in my mind and in my heart, I felt it.

"I was like, 'I've got to keep believing in that.' Even though I had no ideas, I really tried to keep believing."

WATCH | Vincent Lapointe explains ex-boyfriend's role in failed test:

After being shocked by testing positive for a banned substance, Vincent Lapointe had to determine the source to save her Olympic dream. 3:23

Now free to fully focus on getting back in top form ahead of Tokyo qualifiers, the 27-year-old from Trois-Rivieres, Que., is thrilled to be training with the national team in Melbourne, Fla.

"It was really, really good for me to be with them again," she said. "It feels like coming back home. Mentally it was a challenging week but it was a good week.

"Also physically it's not always easy, but I'm doing my best and I love it."

In the end, a hair sample from her ex-boyfriend along with a product test helped them find the source of trace amounts of the substance in her system, her lawyer said last week.

The panel accepted evidence which supported that Vincent Lapointe was the victim of third-party contamination. She has said she gets her products from the National Team Training Centre.

WATCH | Family first for Vincent Lapointe:

Laurence Vincent Lapointe, from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, says growing up in the small town was like having a big family. 3:05

Ligandrol, used to treat conditions such as muscle wasting and osteoporosis, is on WADA's list of banned substances because it has an anabolic steroid effect.

Vincent Lapointe said her ex-boyfriend didn't think the unnamed product contained banned substances but he didn't do a thorough check. She added that he believed it would help with performance recovery.

"From what I know the product was not supposed to contain Ligandrol, but it was still something sketchy I would say," she said. "He did not really check and didn't think ahead.

"He got it, he took it and I got contaminated."

Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended after an out-of-competition doping test on July 29.

She missed the 2019 ICF canoe sprint world championships, which doubled as an Olympic selection event, due to suspension. Vincent Lapointe can still qualify for the Games at qualifiers this spring.

"Even days when I'm uncertain about my level or uncertain about what I'm doing, I'm still very positive," she said. "My coach is also very confident that I will get back to my level. Not in like four months, but he thinks it's going to be within a month.

"Maybe not my peak level but at least my base level. So I'm confident. I think it's going to come back and I'm not scared of working to get there."

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