June 25, 2024

Olympic pole vault gold medalist Thiago Braz gets 16-month ban, to miss Paris 2024

Olympic pole vault gold medalist Thiago Braz gets 16-month ban, to miss Paris 2024
Thiago Braz won the Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016 and picked up the bronze in Tokyo 2020. | Photo (c) World Athletics

Rio 2016 Olympics pole vault gold medalist Thiago Braz has been banned for 16 months due to a doping violation, and will consequently miss out on the Paris 2024 Summer Games.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) handed out the penalty on Wednesday, saying the 30-year-old Brazilian pole vaulter's sample had the presence of ostarine glucuronide--a prohibited substance under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules.

Braz won the Olympic gold in front his home fans eight years ago and followed up with bronze in Tokyo five years later.

Ostarine glucuronide is a metabolite of ostarine and is a Prohibited Substance under the WADA 2023 Prohibited List in the category S1.2 Other Anabolic Agents, according to the AIU.

It is a non-Specified Substance, prohibited at all times, since ostarine is used to enhance muscle growth and athletic performance.

Braz, who was provisionally suspended by the AIU on July 28, 2023 after returning a positive result following an in-competition test at the Bauhaus Galen Diamond League meeting in Stockholm on July 2, will be barred from competing until November 27, 2024, with his period of provisional suspension being credited towards time served.

The AIU said they initially sought a four-year sanction, contending that he was “reckless” and acted with “indirect intent”; he was aware of the risk involved of using supplements sourced from compound pharmacies in Brazil and had “manifestly disregarded that risk”.

However, the Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that while Braz had been “personally informed” about the high risk of contamination involved in using the supplements and had consequently “ignored this risk”, he was not deemed to have manifestly disregarded the risk because he had relied on his medical team for advice.

A majority of the panel determined he was not at “significant fault or negligence”.

“Athletes from Brazil, including Mr Braz, have been specifically educated about the dangers surrounding the use of supplements from compound pharmacies in Brazil. This has occurred via AIU online forums and AIU athlete advisory notices,” said AIU Head Brett Clothier. “In the light of these very clear warnings, it is disappointing to be dealing with such a case.”

Braz argued he did not knowingly use ostarine as he had been given the supplements--containing the banned substance--by his sports nutritionist with the objective of improving his health.

The athlete further contended that he had been assured by the nutritionist that the relevant research of the pharmacies involved had been undertaken and had also been assured that none of the supplements provided to him was "banned by WADA".

The Disciplinary Tribunal said it was satisfied based “on the balance of probabilities” that the origin of the Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) was the contaminated supplements produced by manufacturers Scienza Farma.

In a statement, Braz's counsel considered the decision as "extremely positive".

"The athlete's defense arguments prevailed, proving that Thiago Braz was actually a victim of supplement contamination (an unintentional violation with no significant fault), reducing the requested penalty from 48 months to just 16 months of ineligibility," wrote Braz's lawyer Marcelo Franklin.

The first-instance decision meant the pole vaulter would be free to train in September before being eligible to compete again in November.

Braz has filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week in a bid to reduce the sanction further in hopes of participating in Paris 2024.