A Cautionary Tale

Written by Cyril Jay-Rayon
Created Date: Friday, 25 January 2013 00:00

Not only is this the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write in my athletic life, it’s also the last one I thought I’d write. But, unfortunately, I'm now dealing with the ramifications of a USADA sanction after I unwittingly took a banned "in competition" prescription too close to competition at the USA 24-hour mountain bike Nationals.

I'm aware of the negative perception a USADA sanction can come with, especially during this period of unprecedented doping revelations in professional cycling. For this reason, my main concern was to convey publicly that what I took was not taken during competition and was not intended to enhance my performance. USADA agreed after reviewing my case by allowing the inclusion of the following statement in their Press Release about my sanction:

“Although I used Provigil for work and not to enhance my athletic performance, I should have been more aware about the substances I put in my body before competition,” said Jay-Rayon. “I would like to apologize to my fellow competitors and the race organizers for my carelessness.”

I also received a reduced sanction from the automatic 2 years to 18 months (getting a reduced sanction is not at all easy). This will allow me to return in 2014 to the US 24-hour Nationals and redeem myself. And, in some way bring closure to this unfortunate episode in my athletic life.

As for what I took, it's a prescription drug called Provigil, which contains modafinil, a stimulant (as caffeine is but is not banned), given to people with sleep disorders, jetlag, shift work etc. I started taking it occasionally in 2012 after my business partner moved to Barcelona and I became in charge of all day-to-day operations at our small business. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not a morning person so when I wake up excessively early, I sometimes feel nauseated. For this reason, I was looking for an alternative to my typical cup of java until the nausea goes away. So, taking Provigil was a personal decision to help me at work on occasion. It had nothing to do with competition.

Although modafinil is allowed under USADA rules outside competition, it's banned "in competition". Despite taking it for work the week before competition, it was still in my system when I took the test. What I’ve learned since is that – like many other substances – it can stay in your system as long as a week even though the effects are long gone (the half-life of modafinil is about 12 hours). Had I known, I would not have taken it close to competition or I would have obtained a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the prescription.

I've lost a lot of sleep over the fact that I didn't check Provigil against the USADA list of banned substances. I don't know why it didn't cross my mind to, except that I was not taking it for competition and considered it quite benign as a caffeine substitute. When I think of banned performance enhancers, I think of EPO, Growth Hormones and the likes that you hear about in the news. But, the reality is that I didn’t check and now need to deal with the consequences and move forward. I know it did not enhance my performance but realize that by still being in my system, I violated the rules. For this I take full responsibility.

If any good can come from my experience it would be that I could help others avoid my mistake. My recommendations are simple but important. First, read the extensive list of banned substances at www.usada.org (it is revised every year) and check with USADA if you have any questions. If you’re like me, reading the list won’t be very helpful as I don’t know what most of these substances are. So, if you have any doubt, please check with USADA and don’t assume banned substances are limited to the ones we hear about in the news. Also, check the ingredients of anything you take. And, don’t assume that lack of intent will mean that you’ll pass a test. Secondly, within two weeks of competition, don't take any prescription or over-the-counter medications and check the ingredients on the labels of all energy drinks and supplements. If you must take prescription medications, check with USADA on how to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) before your competition. Trust me, it’s much better being safe than sorry.

I try to look at every event in my life as an opportunity to learn and grow … even with something like this. So, what have I learned? Although it's still too early to fully appreciate that some good can come of this, it has reminded me of how fortunate I am to be surrounded by amazing friends and family. They’ve helped me put things in perspective which has helped me forgive myself and start to move on. I also hope that I’m less quick to judge others as I hope others will be of me. And, the silver lining is that since I will be respecting the sanction and not racing, not even at non-sanctioned USADA events, I will dedicate myself to growing my business into a stable venture. I should have done this a few years ago but the love of competition kept me in training mode. My hope is that, by the time the sanction is over, my business will be in a better place so I can come back to competition in a good state of mind and perform at my best.

If you have any questions, you can email me at cyril.jayrayonATgmail.com.

I wish you all a successful 2013 competitive season.

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