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Independent Arbitrator Concludes No Fault Violation Appropriate for Artistic Swimming Athlete Calista Liu

Legs sticking out of the water during artistic swimming routineUSADA announced today that an independent arbitrator has rendered a decision in the case of artistic swimming athlete Calista Liu of Buena Park, Calif., determining via a consent award that Liu, 18, should receive a no-fault violation after testing positive for dorzolamide during an out-of-competition test on May 13, 2024.

“Sadly, yet another doping violation on a non-cheating athlete,” said Travis T. Tygart, USADA CEO. “Of course, we follow the rules and find a violation and publicly announce the case, but the unfair treatment of non-cheating athletes in these cases must motivate stakeholders to reform the system to account for the increases in the sensitivity of laboratory detection, particularly for long-lasting substances. This is especially true now knowing the current rules are not evenly enforced on others.”

Dorzolamide is a specified substance in the category of Diuretics and Masking Agents and is prohibited-at-all times under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policy, and the World Aquatics Doping Control Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) and the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List. Under the rules, dorzolamide is permitted when administered via topical ophthalmic route (i.e., via the eye), reflecting the common use of dorzolamide eye drops as a treatment for glaucoma. Dorzolamide is only available in eye drop form.

The arbitrator agreed with the parties’ submissions that the dorzolamide in Liu’s system was more likely than not caused by Liu’s frequent and prolonged contact with pillows and bedding her father had used to help him administer his prescribed dorzolamide eye drops multiple times per day. Liu’s contact with the pillows occurred on multiple occasions immediately following her father’s evening administration of the eye drops. Dorzolamide has been shown to be readily absorbed through the skin and has a known half-life of approximately four months in blood, and Liu provided a Dried Blood Spot (DBS) test on May 13.

Read Consent Award

Liu tested positive despite any fault or negligence, so, under the rules she will not face a period of ineligibility. USADA imposed an optional provisional suspension at the time of notification on June 20, 2024, and she immediately opted out of her optional provisional suspension as is permitted under the rules in cases involving specified substances such as dorzolamide. With the conclusion of this legal proceeding, she may continue to compete with no restrictions. Since the sample was collected out-of-competition, there are no competitive results to disqualify. Under the rules, WADA and World Aquatics have a right to appeal the arbitrator’s decision.

The consent award, as well as other arbitral decisions can be found here.

In an effort to aid athletes, as well as support team members such as parents and coaches, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on its website on the testing process and prohibited substances, how to file and update athlete Whereabouts, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements, as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

In addition, USADA manages a drug reference hotline, Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO.com), conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as a supplement guide, a nutrition guide, a clean sport handbook, and periodic alerts and advisories.

USADA makes available a number of ways to report the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in sport in an effort to protect clean athletes and promote clean competition. Any tip can be reported using the USADA Play Clean Tip Center, by text at 87232 (“USADA”), by email at playclean@USADA.org, by phone at 1-877-Play Clean (1-877-752-9253) or by mail.

USADA is responsible for the testing and results management process for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement and is equally dedicated to preserving the integrity of sport through research initiatives and educational programs.

For more information or media inquiries, email media@usada.org.

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