Chris Sheppard, the Canadian national mountain bike representative given a two-year suspension after he was found to have evidence of recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO) in his system, has admitted that after 17 years of racing clean, he "gave in during hard times".
Sheppard stated via his lawyers that, "Point blank I wish to acknowledge I cheated; I'm 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."
Sheppard had enjoyed a strong finish to the NORBA series, where several top-five finishes helped him finish his campaign strongly - that has now been tainted. "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.
Sheppard cites his serious injuries following a training accident in July 2004 as the cause of his 'downward spiral' and subsequent drop in performance, which forced him to seek the edge offered by drugs. 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 by 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."
Sheppard and his legal team will not be considering an appeal against the decision.