September 22, 2005 — Chris Sheppard, a national team and professional mountain bike athlete who was given a two-year suspension after he was found to have evidence of recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO) in his system, admits that after 17 years of racing clean, he “gave in during hard times”.
“Point blank I wish to acknowledge that I cheated,” Chris Sheppard admitted. “I am not trying to raise sympathy, nor have people feel sorry for me. Cycling is a tough sport and after years of racing clean and pointing the finger, I gave in during hard times. I wanted what was taken away from me – years of hard work culminating in a solid season that ended with an accident and my spiral into depression.
“I am devastated by the knowledge that I have let down my family, friends, sponsors, fellow racers, and national team supporters. Until last spring, I lived and raced cleanly and with the conviction that Canadian athletes work hard and play fair. I alone am responsible for my terrible mistake.” Sheppard was subjected to an out-of-competition urine test at his home in Kamloops, BC, on May 29, 2005; the presence of rEPO in his A-sample was communicated to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport on June 15, and confirmed in his B-sample on July 4. The matter was referred to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada as provided for in the Canadian Anti-Doping Program rules, and the final decision of the arbitrator was handed down early September. In accordance with CCES and WADA rules, he was given the minimum two-year suspension for a first-time doping offence. “Throughout his successful racing career Chris has been known as much for the strength of his character and dedication to the development of cycling, as for the strength of his legs,” said his lawyer, Bob Cameron of Victoria, B.C. “His close friends and family know full well that he is heartbroken; but they also know that he has been struggling with serious head and back injuries suffered in July 2004 when hit by a truck while training. Chris has never been one to make excuses, but this is not a case of an athlete trying to gain an edge over his competitors, but of a professional struggling to cope with injury and the ongoing pressure to perform. We are not considering an appeal.”
Sheppard says he is now “reflecting on a career that is tainted. Canada has always bred its athletes to believe that if they work hard and believe in themselves, they can lead a drug-free career. During my career, I lived this statement while fighting for every mile and every position. This belief in oneself was the foundation for all of us to push our limits. Now I push through one of the hardest parts of a lost career – the inability to spread my passion for cycling to others.”