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Lionel Sanders asks “Why aren’t I being scrutinized?” and calls for PTO to do out of competition testing

Canadian pro suggests PTO should allocate 20 per cent of prize purses to out of competition testing

As Canadian triathlon star (or is it YouTube star?) Lionel Sanders prepares for Saturday’s Ironman 70.3 North American Championships St. George, he and video partner Talbot Cox have started their race-week vlog series. In addition to seeing Sanders swim in a pool with his wetsuit in hopes of avoiding a panic attack similar to the one he experienced at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta last year, Sanders had made some pointed comments about what he feels is needed in terms of drug testing for pro triathlon.

Sanders said that the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) should have its members vote on a proposal to utilize a portion of the prize money towards drug testing.

“We take minimum of 20 per cent of all the prize purses, including the one this weekend … [and put it towards] out of competition drug testing,” Sanders said. “And we want to see the books. We want to see that made public … we want to know who you tested, how many times, what it cost.”

According to Sanders, many pro athletes were upset when the PTO reduced both the overall amount of prize money at events and the number of athletes eligible for the year-end bonus pool. (See link below for details.)

PTO, an organization started to help long-distance athletes, won’t operate races longer than 100km

“It’s a way for them to speak, and to have their voice,” he continued. “And, if it turns out that there are some guys at the top doing something stinky, well then that will help get them out of the top.”

We reached out to the PTO to comment on Sanders’ thoughts.

“The PTO has a unique setup in the world of triathlon, in that, as Lionel points out, we are an athlete organisation formed by professional triathletes to further their sport,” said Sam Renouf, PTO CEO. “This may seem unusual, but any sports historian would point out is actually triathlon following the well-trodden path of athlete self-determination. As such, we welcome all interactions, debate and proactive ideas through our (elected) Athlete Board around how we can help protect the integrity of our great sport.”

Sanders also commented on his own struggles with the news that his training partner, Collin Chartier, tested positive for EPO last week.

“I’ve had ups, downs … one day I went to do my tempo ride on the bike and I started to push down on the pedals and just said, ‘I don’t have the fire anymore, it’s gone,'” he said. “The reality is that Collin came to my house at the end of July last year and we lived together. We trained together. Collin’s one of my best friends in the triathlon world. One of your good friends, doing something that, in my opinion, in sports, is the ultimate wrong that you can commit in sports. It truly upended my world view.”

Collin Chartier’s EPO case leaves us with more questions than answers

“Why aren’t I being scrutinized?”

Like many in the sport, Sanders also questioned just how extensive the “investigation” that Chartier said was done by the International Testing Agency (ITA). During an interview aired on the How They Train podcast, Chartier said that the ITA did a “thorough investigation into whether or not this was a bigger doping ring in the sport because they’re really interested in seeing if this is an endemic problem in the sport.”

“Why aren’t I being scrutinized?” Sanders asked. He was never questioned by the ITA, despite being one of Chartier’s training partners.

PTO testing

In a statement last week, the PTO outlined its testing procedures.

“Since late 2020, the PTO has worked closely with respected, independent Anti-Doping consultant Michele Verroken and her company, Sporting Integrity, to set up, deliver and then oversee the PTO’s Anti-Doping Programme,” the statement read. “All athletes who competed in the 2022 PTO Tour races were tested prior to the event (except at the PTO Canadian Open due to country restrictions). In addition to this, at least 10 men and 10 women were selected to provide urine samples post race which are then tested in accordance with the WADA Prohibited Substances List, including additional sports-specific analysis for ESAs and/or growth hormones. For races on the 2023 PTO Tour this will be the same again, including in Ibiza at next week’s PTO European Open.”

While the PTO does not do out of competition tests other than during race week, Ironman and World Triathlon have testing programs that are run through the ITA and the World Anti Doping Agency for registered Ironman pros and athletes who competed at World Triathlon events.