Olympic sprinter Knighton allowed to run at US trials after contamination case

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming U.S. Olympic trials.

The 20-year-old from Florida, who holds the under-18 and under-20 records in the 200 meters, tested positive for the performance enhancer trenbolone during an out-of-competition test in March, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which revealed details of the case Wednesday.

Though the arbitration panel cleared Knighton to run in the 200, starting June 27, the decision can be appealed by either the Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees doping in track and field, or the World Anti-Doping Agency.

WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said “as it always does, WADA will review this case and reserves the right to take an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as appropriate.”

The AIU did not return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“We did what the rules require us to do in all positive cases,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “We can take comfort that justice was served and transparency as required by the rules was achieved."

Tygart said the contaminated meat came from oxtail at a bakery in central Florida. A USADA investigation, including obtaining the meat and testing it, along with interviews with the manager of the bakery, Knighton, his girlfriend and his mother, backed up the sprinter’s contamination claim.

When Knighton qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, he became the youngest male since Jim Ryun in 1964 to make the U.S. Olympic team. He finished fourth in the 200 behind Andre De Grasse, Kenny Bednarek and Noah Lyles. Knighton finished second behind Lyles at last year's world championships.

Contamination cases such as Knighton's aren't unheard of, though they have come under closer scrutiny of late in the wake of a case involving 23 Chinese swimmers whose positive tests for a banned heart medication were deemed to have come because of contamination.

WADA accepted the explanation from Chinese authorities and did not pursue that case, which became public after reporting by The New York Times and the German broadcaster ARD. That decision has been roundly criticized by USADA and others because the initial positives were not made public.

Part of WADA's argument has been to point out contamination cases that originated in the United States — which have involved everything from meat to dog medicine — have not always resulted in sanctions. USADA has insisted it has followed the rulebook in all those cases, including making public any violation, even if it did not result in a penalty.

Perhaps the most controversial contamination case in the U.S. involved distance runner Shelby Houlihan, who got banned before the 2021 Olympic trials, even though she claimed her positive test was the result of a burrito she bought that contained meat laced with nandrolone.

Houlihan is currently serving a four-year ban that ends next year.


AP Summer Olympics:

Eddie Pells And Pat Graham, The Associated Press