USA’s Collin Chartier has given a frank confession after testing positive for banned performance enhancing drug erythropoietin (EPO).
The 29-year-old was handed a three-year sanction after an out-of-competition sample collected on 10 February by Ironman found the reigning PTO US Open champion and 2022 Ironman Mont-Tremblant winner had the blood-boosting drug in his system.
EPO is banned under World Anti-Doping Agency rules because it stimulates red blood cell production, enabling the body to transport more oxygen around the body.
Due to taking responsibility early in the process the 29-year-old was entitled to a one-year reduction to the initial four-year ban.
What has Collin Chartier said?
In a statement on Instagram titled ‘I am sorry’ he said he has no plans to return to professional triathlon.
Chartier said he wanted to apologise to family, friends, supporters and the sport in general, saying he’d “lost my way in this sport” and added he was not going to “give myself or anyone else the bullshit excuse of a tainted burrito or tainted covid vaccine”.
He said he started taking EPO in November, after his wins at Ironman Mont-Tremblant (August) and the PTO US Open (September), and maintains he sourced and administered the EPO himself after placing a disappointing 35th place in Hawaii in October, where he felt as if he’d “failed” and let down the people who’d supported him.
In an exclusive interview with the How They Train podcast, Chartier said his mental state deteriorated after contracting Covid and having tendonitis in November. He also denied he was doping during his wins at the PTO US Open and Ironman Mont-Tremblant, and said it was driven by a belief that the top guys in the sport were doping, although he had no evidence to back it up.
“This was a decision I made by myself and I learnt how to do it myself,” he told the podcast. “The last thing I wanted to do was bring down the team of people who had supported me the most.”
Responding to a question about whether or not he should be handing back his $100,000 prize money from the PTO US Open, plus any sponsorship money he’s received for 2023, he said: “As far as the PTO US Open goes, I did that clean, they can re-test the samples. I’m 100% sure of this.
“As for this year’s sponsorship money, I’ve already talked to them and I’m giving back everything. I’m trying to do what’s right. I’m giving back the sponsorship money and I hope they can put this toward another athlete.”
How has he performed over the past few years?
The PTO-ranked No 14 was a shock winner of last year’s inaugural PTO US Open where he won $100,000 on a brutally hot day in Dallas, holding it together on the run to beat Magnus Ditlev and Sam Long. He had claimed his first full Ironman success in Canada just three weeks earlier.
He also finished 11th at the PTO Canadian Open in July and 5th at Ironman South Africa in April last year.
Prior to those results his previous win had been in Challenge Salou in Spain in 2021, which he dedicated to his terminally ill grandfather back home. He was also a last-minute call-up to the 2021 Collins Cup for Team USA where he finished second in his match-up to Gustav Iden.
As a short course triathlete, Chartier had won three America Cup races in 2019, but couldn’t crack the top 10 in World Cup competition (the second tier of the sport).
How has the triathlon community reacted?
The breaking news triggered a huge outpouring of emotion from fellow professionals on social media, with an impassioned Lionel Sanders, a former training partner of Chartier’s, questioning on Instagram whether he was “juicing” when the American stayed with him in Arizona and saying that he has thrown “everyone under the bus”, indicating that coaches and fellow athletes would be seen as guilty by association.
Australian Josh Amberger, who finished second to Chartier in Ironman Mont-Tremblant, said this on Instagram: “I feel physically ill. I’m not celebrating, rather I’m completely and utterly in mourning. It wasn’t just me and my competitors that were robbed that day. The whole sport was robbed.”
The 2014 Ironman world champion Sebastian Kienle was also highly critical of Chartier, with a sarcastic response to his confession: “Let me guess, you bought it on the internet and also learned how to use it – all from the internet. Nobody helped you, nobody knew.”
Chartier has been coached by Mikal Iden, the brother of reigning Ironman world champion Gustav, since January 2022. The coach posted a statement online saying: “I never thought I would have to make a statement like this. I’m in shock and crying just now learning that an athlete I’ve been coaching for the last year has been doping.
“I can’t distance myself enough from this action. It’s such a complete crash in my values it’s unthinkable. The only positive I see from this is the anti-doping organisation catching the athlete.”
EPO use has long tainted the reputation of endurance sports, with high profile cases in athletics, cycling and swimming. Ironman’s biggest doping case came in 2004 when Germany’s Nina Kraft was stripped of her Ironman crown after testing positive for EPO.
The most recent case prior to Chartier was Italian athlete Andrea Pizzeghella, who tested positive for the equine drug Boldenone that can stimulate the release of EPO. The 33-year-old received a five-year ban from the Italian National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO).
Chartier, who had been on various altitude camps in USA, Ecuador and Spain in recent months, was paid $14,000 for finishing 16th in the end-of-year PTO rankings. PTO are yet to issue a statement on whether than money will be repaid.
He was not on the start-list for May’s big money PTO European Open in Ibiza, but had originally been planning to take on Saturday’s Ironman Texas before the announcement – a race that was won by training partner Rudy Von Berg.
Top image credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for Ironman