Well it has been a long time since I have last posted and first off I apologize for the delay in news.
Back in March after pulling out of San Juan 70.3 due to extreme fatigue and loss of strength, I immediately returned to Fort Worth and saw Dr. Stuntz to have blood work done. On 03/22/11 my lab tests came back showing low Iron as well as severely low testosterone, exactly 30ng/DL (normal 241-827). The gonadotrophin levels suggested Hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism.
Dr. Stunz immediately referred me to an Endocrinologist because of how severely low these levels were. The endocrinologist did another full workup and agreed measures had to be taken. We talked about the dangers of low testosterone as well as the treatment therapies for this condition. The first thing that was suggested was an injection that would be time released. I immediately turned down that idea for the fact that a testosterone injection was a banned substance.
I was put on a very low dose of Androgel which is a topical cream that I rubbed on my shoulders daily. I was still a bit unsure about the therapy but it was an easy and safe way to get my ranges back up towards the low end of normal. I had already lost a lot of muscle and not to mention I started to lose hair and was at risk of bone loss if my levels continued to remain critically low.
In April I found out that the prescription I was on was in fact a banned substance. I immediately contacted WTC about a TUE application so I could race while using this substance. I found on the WADA website that it was prohibited but could be used with a TUE similar to a puffer for Asthma. At this point I thought no big deal I will just submit my blood test results and will be good to go. WTC was very helpful in providing information for me to contact The Canadian Center for Ethics and Sport (CCES).
I immediately sent CCES lab results as well as some initial doctor information with a referral to an Endocrinologist. My first TUE application or what I thought was an application was eventually turned down for lack of information. I had an extremely hard time dealing with the representative at CCES (*no longer working there) about getting the exact paperwork that needed to be completed.
Eventually I found a TUE application on USADA website that was specific for Hypogonadism. Since that is what I was diagnosed with I “assumed” that eventually I would get a TUE granted by CCES if I could ever specifically figure out what was needed.
The biggest problem I found along the way was email communication with CCES and the fact that no one could ever tell me what I needed to provide or what I needed to fill out. All they could do was tell me that I needed more information. Well every time they needed more information it just kept costing me more and more money for Doctor’s appointments and blood work.
Doing research on my own from the USADA site I found that for Hypogonadism I needed 3 blood lab results at different times to plot certain graphs as well as a treatment plan from my doctor on medication and dosages as well as some of the obvious family history and past medical files and an MRI of my pituitary gland.
So I am now into May and I have gone on and off the medication trying to prove that even with the medication I have extremely low readings and that me taking this medication I am not putting myself at an advantage over my competitors.
The next blood test I have done I have a reading of 242ng/dl (241-827 normal range). Now that is being on the medication. After needing to go off the medication so I was able to race in June my levels where now (on the next blood test) 87ng/dl and back into a dangerous level. I continued to race so I was able to at least get in some races and points for the new WTC qualifying system.
I was still getting turned down for lack of information but now I was starting to gain some knowledge about what was actually needed other than emails I actually had an application from CCES that needed to be filled out by my endocrinologist. Well it would have been nice if someone told me that a month and a half ago.
My biggest health risk at this time was not that I had extremely low testosterone levels; it was what was causing this? My endocrinologist was worried that I may have a tumor in my pituitary gland and I needed to get an MRI done to rule this out. Well in the USA these costs over $3,000 dollars. Due to Doctors orders I needed to continue taking this prescription as when I went off it I was back down below 100ng/dl and that bone loss was going to start to be a major factor at these levels, not to mention the risk of not being able to have children. Scared and unsure what to do I continued taking it off and on mainly making sure that race week I would not take any. My energy level’s would be low but I needed to race for points. I “assumed” that even though I had no TUE issued yet mainly due to lack of past medical history from my physician I had enough information to prove I needed to take it and that CCES was still working on my TUE application.
In July I decided to do one last race to secure my ranking for WTC 70.3 Vegas World Triathlon Championships in September. I traveled to Muncie 70.3 and came 9th, not a very good performance but it wasn’t bad considering the previous 3 70.3’s I did over the last 5-6 weeks.
Crossing the line in Muncie I was immediately taken to Doping Control. No big deal I had nothing to hide and gave a urine test. I knew that I had taken my medication off and on during the summer and that I had no risk of a positive test because even though I was on a banned substance at periods of time, my testosterone would not be any where near a level to cause an analytical finding.
Two week’s before Vegas Championships (7 week’s after taking the drug test) I get an email stating there was an analytical finding in my test and that my T/E ratio was just over the 4:1 ratio that was legal for WADA. The news was like someone had told me to lift my hands high in the air and immediately kick me right in the nuts. I did not sleep for two weeks after this with huge amounts of stress. I had my B Sample tested because I knew for a fact I was taking it off and on and I was hoping that this was some sort of Error.
After the initial shock was over I needed a game plan. I contacted CCES and went through two additional denials of my TUE. Every time I submitted a piece of medical information to CCES it takes 30 days for them to contact you about if it was approved or not. I decided it was now time to rule out a Pituitary Tumor and get the MRI done. I decided to appeal WTC’s decision on a 2 year ban because I had a legitimate excuse for needing the prescription and figured I could get it reduced because I actually tried to do the right thing and get a TUE application when I first found out. I even skipped out on New Orleans’s 70.3 because I found out earlier in the week that I needed a TUE to race with it.
I am 100% responsible for what I put in or on my body. Nobody forced me to race triathlon being ill but I love the sport and I really wanted to qualify for Vegas 70.3 Championships. This is the stupidest mistake I have ever made in my life and I will now be forced to miss the complete 2012 season due to this. I have had to drop the appeal with WTC that is schedule for two weeks time because I risk paying all legal fee’s and arbitration costs to have everyone come to Fort Worth if I lose the case. My attorney’s have advised me that unfortunately my case is all emotional facts and information and that I did break the rule and a 2 year ban must be enforced. I am still waiting on CCES to get back to me with my previous TUE application including MRI results and other medical information.
I would like to apologize to the other athlete’s I raced against, my Sponsors, my friends, family, Thomas Mazurek and other attorney’s, my wife and my coach for all of this emotional stress I have caused everyone. I am the only one to blame for this mistake and I have unfortunately learned a hard lesson. I don’t feel I deserve a 2 year ban but laws are laws and WTC is doing a great job at implementing a strict policy for fair play. I hope to one day return to this great sport of triathlon and strive towards podium performances.
Muncie was not my last 70.3, we will meet again on the start line,