World champion pole vaulter Shawnacy Barber tested positive for cocaine after winning the Canadian Olympic trials in July, but was allowed to compete in Rio after an arbitrator ruled that he inadvertently ingested the cocaine while kissing a woman he had solicited for sex on Craigslist the night before the trials.
The decision was handed down by the Sports Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada just two days before the Olympics began, but was announced publicly today. Barber, 22, went on to finish a disappointing 10th in Rio.
To explain his doping violation, Barber said that he posted in Craigslist’s casual encounter section under a pseudonym to solicit a drug- and disease-free “professional” woman, to help relieve stress the night before the trials in Edmonton. A man responded with pictures of a woman, and informed Barber that the woman was a mother of two, which Barber liked because he thought that meant she would be “more cautious” and “reserved.”
The woman spoke at the hearing, and said that unbeknownst to Barber she had snorted cocaine before going to the hotel, and then snorted more cocaine in the hotel bathroom just before he arrived. Barber said he didn’t notice anything unusual while kissing the woman, and said that her behavior was normal, if a little bit tipsy. (She offered him a glass of alcohol, but he declined.) After 30 minutes the sexual encounter was over, and Barber went back to his hotel room and slept.
(It is worth noting here that at the hearing the woman “was quite upset in recounting the events, obviously found it very difficult and seemed regretful about the whole thing,” and said it was a “one-time situation.” She said she took cocaine twice before meeting Barber, and “consumed a 26-ounce bottle of vodka that evening.” The man who Barber communicated with “remained ‘around’ the room, exiting and re-entering from time to time ‘for the most part.’”)
At the hearing, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) argued that Barber, who won at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, should be subject to a four-year doping ban because of his violation. But they didn’t oppose Barber’s “scientific” evidence, and all parties accepted that the most likely source of cocaine found in Barber’s system came from kissing the woman.
Barber argued that the most relevant precedent was established in a 2009 Court of Arbitration for Sport decision, when the CAS drastically reduced tennis player Richard Gasquet’s ban for cocaine. Gasquet argued that the cocaine got into his system after he met a woman, “Pamela,” at a restaurant. The two went to a club together and spent the night kissing. (Gasquet filed a criminal suit against Pamela, which was dismissed, and she countered with a defamation suit.)
The CCES countered that, no matter the precedent established in the Gasquet case, Barber didn’t demonstrate enough caution for a finding of “no fault or negligence.” Thus, the central question the arbitrator had to answer was:
Shawnacy Barber’s choices and conduct on the night of July 8, 2016 may be viewed as risky, careless and foolish in many different ways. But the issue is, were they risky in the sense of exposing him to the possibility of ingesting a prohibited substance?
In light of the facts that Barber’s Craigslist ad specified he wanted a drug-free woman, that he declined the drink offered by the woman, and that the woman said there was no way Barber could have known she had snorted cocaine, the panel found that Barber’s case was substantially the same as Gasquet’s, and struck his period of ineligibility.
His win at the Canadian Championships—which doubled as the Olympic trials—was thrown out, however.