Geraldine Finegan recounts Kamloops illness, drug positive
Over the past couple days, Geraldine Finegan of Ireland has responded to my queries on her drug positive in Kamloops. She gives a comprehensive account of her case. She bared her soul, including her personal life. But the excerpts below deal mainly with her drug positive at Kamloops worlds in March, where she won four W40 medals. World Masters Athletics has yet to publicly comment on the case, and the Irish Athletic Association — which “stripped” her of two medals — has failed to answer my repeated queries. So all we know is from Geraldine herself. She has not been suspended from competition. In fact, she plans to compete at the 2010 Eurovets championships in NyÃregyhÃ¡za, Hungary. Here’s an interview with Geraldine in late April, apparently a promotion of Tahitian Noni Juice, which she endorses. She has her own website as well.
Here are several statements Geraldine sent me, combined and edited for clarity:
I was born in England to Irish parents and moved to Ireland at 14, where I started running due to my dad’s competitive boxing background. I along with my sister ran cross country badly with little to no training. I was coached then by a Polish man, a genius born before his time, Dr. Zbgniew Orywal, who introduced me to multi-events and pole-vaulting and hurdles — the list goes on.
I started to improve and ran 2:18 for 800, 62.8 for 400 hurdles, 26.2 for 200 — not so strong, though I began weight training and moved clubs to Dunleer, another club in Ireland where I lived near Dundalk, close to the border where my parents bought a pub or bar as you call it in America.
The man who encouraged me to specialise in multi-events is the honorary President Larry McGuill, my new father figure and motivator. Larry has since had a triple by-pass and still motivating and praising my athletic attempts.
I went to a very strict Catholic convent school and shortly after my fifth year there and before my final exams my mother was left with 5 children to raise alone as my father died at 48 from stomach cancer. I was 18 and very close to him. I watched and cared for him, missing my preparation for my final exams but more concerned about how I would cope without the best friend I had my strength and drive my dad.
I left home, trained harder but struggled to get by alone. I met a free-spirited man and got a flat in Northern Ireland. I qualified as a coach and aerobic instructor and set up my own business, teaching five classes a day.
After 10 years my triathlete boyfriend and I separated, no children but still great friends; we now coach in the same club together. I met several other close soulmates I almost married, but he disappeared and left me two days before a big wedding and flew back to Malta without a word — afraid of commitment in a strange country. I was suicidal devastated.
To save myself from disaster I took a job and met a chef with whom I decided quickly to have a baby. I was 35 and not prepared for another marriage but needing unconditional love, and had Nicole my bundle of unconditional love. My athletics has kept me sane and alive. I had some memorable moments — like qualifying for the bobsleigh team for Utah (Winter Olympics) but I decided not to follow up as I wanted a baby more than an Olympic medal.
I jump now to the telephone call from (Irish Sports Council) to say I was going to receive details of a positive drug test. I was instantly worried that my brown preventer inhaler had caused the problem.
They explained that it was 11.4 mg of ephedrine I knew that I had been particularly bad with a blocked nose every evening and morning — sneezing due to allergies from dust mites, molds, etc., which are worse in carpeted and wallpapered rooms or indoors with poor ventilation.
STATEMENT ON KAMLOOPS DRUG CASE
Recently, after competing at the World Masters Championships in Kamloops, Canada, I was tested positive for the prohibited substance ephedrine. I was found to have 11.4 mg in my system and the allowed amount being 10.0 mg. Ephedrine is an ingredient used in certain over-the-counter medications to treat congestion and asthma. Ephedrine is not currently classified as a controlled substance under the (British) Misuse of Drugs Act, so no penalties apply for possession or use of ephedrine.
While participating in the masters championships, I collapsed after the 800 and was taken to the event’s medical facility for attention to relieve symptoms of asthma and nasal decongestion.
I was wonderfully treated and cared for by dedicated first-aiders who took my heart rate and put me in a wheelchair, gave me oxygen, talked me through my attack and panic situation.
The next day, whilst still suffering from the same symptoms and having to compete in further events, I purchased a nasal decongestant from the health shop company GNC and was assured by the shop manager that it was perfectly legal and supplied to adults and children alike. I thought no more of this until earlier this month when I was contacted by the Sports Council informing me I had tested positive for the prohibited substance.
The A.A.I and Sports Council found that the nasal decongestant I used was not performance-enhancing; nor was it taken for the intent of enhancing my performance but to relieve my symptoms after collapsing on the Wednesday of the competition. I had a prominent Irish athlete as a witness to my purchase of the medication in Canada. I will retain my two gold medals which I won at the start of the week before falling ill
I subsequently received no help from the A.A.I. — just condemnation. I was fortunate to have full documentation of my condition, provided by my G.P. before I left for Canada. I was also fortunate to have another masters athlete of high standing in the community, a former County Mayo senator who accompanied me on my visit to the health shop.
I take pride in knowing that my achievements have been gained through my own endeavors and hard training. I have never knowingly taken an illegal or legal substance to help my performance. Throughout my long athletic career I have complied with all official tests and have never tested positive for any prohibited substance.
I would advise all sports persons young and old to be aware of the full ingredients of any over-the-counter cold and flu remedies provided by retailers. I have always condemned the use of drugs in sport and will be emphasizing to athletes that hard work, determination and mental preparation is the only way to achieve your goals — to win on your own endeavours is a greater reward than any medal.
Please inform my friends in the athletic field and the newspapers of the whole story. Thank you; I hope this clarifies the situation. I am looking forward to competing at the European championships in Hungry in July.
Yours in Sport.
Geraldine also took pains to further explain her change of national affiliation — which has confused some UK athletes:
I am just in from javelin coaching in school and have to teach my own mentally challenged group of athletes here in Northern Ireland. That’s where I live, although I used to live in southern Ireland six miles away, so my club is registered in Ireland and as I have been running 30 years continuously, I stayed with the southern club.
Here in Ireland you can as a senior athlete compete for different countries like London Irish or as I have done Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Actually that’s a good story, as it wasn’t out of choice, but I had entered my first masters event when I was 38 in Germany indoors (2004 Sindelfingen world masters championships) — booked the flights, hotel for myself and my child and a Nanny when my friend rang me to say the entries were closing but they both had been accepted by the Irish secretary.
I telephoned and they said I was too late as I hadn’t paid my membership fee of 10 euros. I was willing to post that along with my entries, but the phone was put down on me quite abruptly. I was desperate to solve the situation and could not understand her attitude or lack of understanding as I had booked everything and she had accepted others and I had never run as a master and did not know about membership or affiliation fees.
Final addendum: I asked Geraldine if her “B” urine sample from Kamloops had been tested — a common practice in doping cases.
Geraldine replied: “No, as I did not request it to be tested when she informed me it was not my brown inhaler but the ingredient in the decongestant which was 8 mg. By the way, 10 mg is legal. I had slightly above 11.4 one dose the evening before the event when I had a rest day and one the morning of.”