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March 20, 2019

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Drug-use allegations ruin hurdler

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The cloud of suspicion and the reality of suspension surrounding Olympic hurdler Sandra Farmer-Patrick have combined to wreck her family, even hurting her 2-year-old daughter, she says.

"She'll look at me and say, 'Mommy, you OK, mommy, you OK?'" Farmer-Patrick said of little Sierra. "And I break out in tears.

"It's torn us apart. Everything is a shambles now. There's been so much stress. It's depleted us financially. ..."

Farmer-Patrick and her husband, David, also an Olympic 400-meter hurdler, are fighting daily to prove she never used performance-enhancing drugs, as alleged by USA Track & Field following a test from a meet last summer.

"They can't make a decision to let us know what's going on," she said. "I can't compete. I feel like I'm in jail. It's like they've convicted you and they haven't come down with a verdict.

"I would like to state that I have never used any performance-enhancing drug or any illegal substance. I'm 100 percent innocent."

Farmer-Patrick was one of three American athletes recently suspended by track and field's world governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, pending a hearing on her alleged drug use. The others were Mary Slaney, the premier distance runner in U.S. history, and an unidentified athlete, believed to be hurdler Stephon Flenoy.

Drug tests showed all three with levels of testosterone and epitestosterone higher than the allowable 6-to-1 ratio. Testosterone is a male sex hormone and epitestosterone is a related chemical with no known function.

The three are ineligible to compete and will miss next week's U.S. championships at Indianapolis, the qualifying meet for the World Championships in Greece in August.

"At this point, I don't know if I will compete," Farmer-Patrick said. "I hope USATF will come up with a decision before then. I'm waiting to see where my future lies. If I get a chance to run next week, even if it's just over one hurdle, I'll be happy."

Speaking by phone from her home in Pflugerville, Texas, the two-time Olympian and former American record-holder in the 400-meter hurdles said she and her husband had spent about $30,000 fighting the drug charges.

Lawyers for Farmer-Patrick, Slaney and the third athlete had a conference call Tuesday with U.S. Olympic Committee executive director Dick Schultz, who said he hoped the disputes could be resolved in time for the athletes to compete at Indianapolis.

On Monday, Slaney filed a complaint with the USOC that the drug test was flawed and discriminated against women. But Schultz said the committee had no authority to act at this time.

Patrick and his wife decided to speak out because a USATF panel member broke the confidentiality of their case while "slandering her name around the world," Patrick said.

"This leak happened weeks before a decision was due, which undermined the whole integrity of the panel that was making a decision on her career," Patrick said. "She has still not received any word from USATF on this matter while the whole world has."

He said that because testosterone is a naturally occurring substance, an elevated T-E ratio does not automatically mean drug use, and that current tests cannot tell the difference between natural and synthetic testosterone.

"USATF knows this and IAAF research ... shows that this ratio can be affected by several different variables," such as birth-control pills and menstrual periods, Patrick said. "The science is invalid with this male-biased test."

USATF knew that Farmer-Patrick takes birth control pills and was menstruating at the time the urine sample was taken, but "camouflaged this information" before the hearing panel, her husband said.

Patrick added that his wife has "documented medical proof showing that she has a low epitestosterone, which will make the ratio seem higher than what's shown. ... In some cases, her epistestosterone level was so low it would not register."

Patrick said his wife's lawyer and the IAAF repeatedly requested all of the documents from the test results, "yet at the hearing USATF could not produce them."

"The truth is on her side," Patrick said. "If USATF can look at these facts and still uphold a suspension, then there's a big problem with the justice system in USATF."

"Everything is documented," Farmer-Patrick said. "There is nothing to be hidden."