News 8th August 2017

Food contaminated by breast cancer medication leads to doping ban

Italian tennis player Sara Errani has been sanctioned with a two-month ban, after arguing that an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for letrozole was caused by accidentally consuming her mother’s breast cancer medication. The panel heard evidence from the player’s mother, who said that she kept the drug brand Femara in the kitchen, as preparing meals reminded her to take the drug. It accepted her evidence that she had occasionally dropped the pills onto the kitchen worktop, or pushed more than the required one pill out of the blister pack by accident.

The panel carried out a test to see if a Femara pill would dissolve in food – specifically the broth and tortellini that Errani’s mother prepared on 14 and 15 February, ahead of the 16 February AAF. ‘They found that not only did it dissolve in the broth, which is unsurprising, but it also dissolved in the meat mixture used for tortellini even when that mixture was at room temperature’, reads the ruling (PDF below). ‘Clearly this was not a test under laboratory conditions and no weight can be given to it. Equally neither can it be dismissed’.

As the panel found that ‘the presence of the medication in close proximity to the food preparation area was something which should have been identified and addressed by the Player herself’, it rejected the idea that the evidential burden for a finding of ‘no fault’ and elimination of a sanction had been met. However it accepted that the player the burden of proof for ‘no significant fault or negligence’ had been met, and issued a two-month ban.

‘I never took, in my life and during my career, any prohibited substance’, wrote Errani on Twitter (see below). The Panel found that her mother had not told her she was taking medication to prevent breast cancer from returning.

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