90-year-old hits back after being punished for probable meat contamination

US Masters champion Carl Grove

US Masters champion Carl Grove (Image credit: Twitter)

Carl Grove, the 90-year-old US rider who was recently stripped of his individual pursuit world record by anti-doping authorities, has suggested that the United States Anti-Doping Agency's decision to test him was a waste of money. He told the Associated Press that USADA should give up on testing athletes over 65.

Grove tested positive for a metabolite of the banned substance trenbolone on July 11, 2018, after setting a world record at the US Masters Track National Championships. Grove won the 90-94 age group Individual Pursuit, setting a new world record 03:06:129. He was the lone competitor in his age group.

USADA investigated his case and admitted that Grove's failed test was likely due to the inadvertent consumption of the substance through contaminated meat but said that it still had to issue him with a public warning, the least-serious punishment available. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, athletes are ultimately responsible for what they eat and drink and the consequences of any contamination.

Reports suggest that Grove enjoyed a liver dinner after setting a new record in the 500-metre time trial event at the championships. He competed in the Pursuit event the next day and then tested positive.

"Cases like this make us bang our head against the wall," USADA boss Travis Tygart admitted to the Associated Press after news of Grove's case sparked global headlines. "The outcome is not right and it's a system gone awry. He ate meat and had a test that you then can't just sweep under the carpet as much as you might otherwise want to."

Grove said that taxpayers' money would be better spent on catching more serious offenders.

"Us old guys are kind of like peanuts. I think that they're wasting their time," he said. "What can I gain at 90 years old doing drugs? Tell me, I just don't know. So I think that somewhere there ought to be a cut-off and they ought to zero in on the stuff that is done for money reasons or whatever it may be. But I think after 65 or 70, you know, they ought to just give up."

The former United States Navy Band saxophonist, who toured the world and played for several US presidents during his time in the armed forces, said the USADA punishment had hurt him. But he intends to keep riding his bike.

"I was really kind of down for a while. But I'm over it," Grove said. "I wanted to be an inspiration, if possible. I worked like a real horse to do it. They struck me from the records. I don't really care about that too much. The thing that I really, really care about is that I wanted to be a sterling, totally clean person in front of people that knew about me.

"It looked like I had not been an honest person to a lot of people. I guess I was kind of worried about what did other people think, you know? Then, I began to think, 'Well, some of them will believe me and some of them won't.' I guess that's just the way it is."

Grove, who will be 91 on July 13, now has the 90-95 age group Hour Record as a possible goal, as a way of bouncing back from his USADA case. The current mark was set in 2017 by France's Rene Gaillard, who covered 29.278km.

"Sometimes, I ride in the morning and it's a beautiful sunrise. I'm alive. I'm looking. I'm looking around. I'm feeling good. I'm so happy," he said.

"I've got so many gold medals and ribbons and stuff, and that doesn't count. What counts is getting out there and doing the best I can do and show people what they can do."

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