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Mexico's Star Race Walker Lupita González Hit With 4-Year Ban For Doping

María Guadalupe González, seen here winning the Women's 20 km race at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships last May, has been banned from the sport for four years.
Yifan Ding
Getty Images for IAAF
María Guadalupe González, seen here winning the Women's 20 km race at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships last May, has been banned from the sport for four years.

An athletics tribunal has banned elite Mexican race walker María Guadalupe González from competing for four years. Officials allege that González, popularly known as Lupita, forged records to bolster her claim that she ate meat containing a metabolite of trenbolone, a powerful anabolic steroid.

González, 30, has won numerous titles, including a silver medal at the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016. She had been training recently with the intent of competing at next year's Tokyo Games. But her chances of racing in Japan are now dashed, unless she files and wins an appeal.

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles integrity issues for the International Athletics Federation (IAAF), says González's ban effectively started on Nov. 16, 2018. That's the day the AIU provisionally suspended the athlete because she failed an out-of-competition drug test administered in Mexico City.

The doping allegations have sent deep ripples through Mexico's community of Olympic athletes.

In early December, days after González was told her "B" urine sample had also failed doping tests, Mexican athletes voiced their support for her, representing sports from boxing and fencing to diving. And last month, the head of Mexico's Olympic Committee said he wants González to focus on training at altitude for the Tokyo Olympics rather than worry about overturning her suspension in time for this summer's Pan American Games.

In her defense against the doping allegation, González said she had not used any prohibited substances, and that if trenbolone was in her system, it must have come from meat she ate in the two days before the urine test. She added that the steroid is legal to use on livestock in Mexico. And she later claimed she had also been diagnosed with anemia and instructed to eat more meat.

In its response, the IAAF said the race walker's explanation "is not sufficient on the balance of probability," and that the concentration of trenbolone found in her sample was too high to have come from contaminated meat.

Officials also engaged a company called Pentad Security to look into González's claims, including a hospital report she submitted as evidence of her anemia condition.

From the ruling:

"The Pentad Report considers the hospital report submitted by the Athlete to have been forged if one takes into account the incorrect data included in the report, such as the doctor's name or telephone number, and the fact that 'diagnosis of ferropenic microcytic hypochromic anaemia is not supported by the [Hospital Report] and is not compatible with the hematological values in the [ABP],' as concluded by Professor D'Onofrio." [referring to professor Giuseppe D'Onofrio, an IAAF expert witness]

The IAAF also said food receipts from restaurant and food trucks provided by González had also been fabricated. And it said that while González had initially described eating steak and pork, she later said she had also eaten liver.

"As the maximum permitted residues of trenbolone is five times higher in liver, she had an interest in having eaten liver," the panel said in its ruling.

While it's retroactive to last fall, the doping ban does not strip González of any medals or titles she won prior to last year's failed test.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.