Hope Solo Fails Drug Test, Still Eligible for Olympics Thanks to 'Pre-Menstrual' Excuse

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Hope Solo
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced yesterday that Hope Solo tested positive for a banned substance, but she is still eligible to compete in the Olympics because it was "prescribed medication from a personal doctor for pre-menstrual purposes."

Solo submitted the tainted urine sample on June 15, the day before she was scheduled to play goalie for the U.S. Women's National Team in a match against Sweden. She reportedly tested positive for something called Canrenone.

Here's what Solo has to say about that, per her official statement:

"I took a medication prescribed by my personal doctor for pre-menstrual purposes that I did not know contained a diuretic. Once informed of this fact, I immediately cooperated with USADA and shared with them everything they needed to properly conclude that I made an honest mistake, and that the medication did not enhance my performance in any way. As someone who believes in clean sport, I am glad to have worked with USADA to resolve this matter and I look forward to representing my country at the 2012 Olympic Games in London."
And here's the official statement from U.S. Soccer:
"U.S. Soccer received notification from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Hope Solo tested positive for a banned substance from an out-of competition urine sample she provided on June 15. After discussions with Hope, we fully support her clarification that the positive test for Canrenone was due to the use of a prescribed medication from a personal doctor for pre-menstrual purposes and not related to performance enhancement in any way."
As noted by Deadspin, Solo might be the first ever athlete to get the benefit of the doubt for a failed drug test. Her excuse sounds legitimate, but, as Barry Petchesky puts it, "maybe it's because she was taking ladypart medications, and we are scared and confused by that sort of thing."

After reading up on Canrenone and consulting an expert, the situation is slightly less confusing.

According to a very brief Wikipedia entry, Canrenone is marketed under the brand names Contaren and Luvion, and is "an aldosterone antagonist with additional antiandrogen properties which is used as a diuretic in Europe."

What Wikipedia doesn't mention is that Canrenone is exclusively available in Europe, and not FDA-approved in the United States. Liz Rudy, drug information pharmacist at University of Washington Medical Center, says there's a similar diuretic in this country called Spironolactone, and the body naturally metabolizes Spironolactone into Canrenone.

"People have used it off-label for PMS," Rudy says. "Whether it's effective or not is questionable. There's not enough studies to say it really works, but it could be used to get rid of bloating."

Rudy declined to comment on the specifics of Solo's case, but notes that the "pre-menstrual purposes" excuse is entirely plausible. "It doesn't look like anything terribly sinister," she says. "It's used widely in Europe."

The diuretic aspect is also what makes Canrenone a banned substance, since taking it could flush an athlete's system and perhaps help him or her avoid detection for other performance enhancers. The Global Drug Reference Online, a website that breaks down which substances are banned and why, says of Canrenone, "The use of any substance subject to threshold limits...in conjunction with a diuretic or other masking agent requires a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the threshold substance AND the diuretic or masking agent."

In other words, Solo and her doctor should have known taking Canrenone was off-limits, and applied for an exemption. Still, it does have plenty of legit applications. Specifically, according to the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS), a pharmaceutical prescribing reference, Canrenone can be used to treat:

"Headache, drowsiness, GI disturbances, ataxia, mental confusion, skin rashes, gynecomastia, breast enlargement, hirsutism, deepening of the voice, menstrual irregularities, impotence, mild acidosis, lethargy..."
The list goes on and on.

Even without delving into further detail, public knowledge of Solo's menstrual situation has probably far exceeded what any woman would feel comfortable sharing. Bottom line: the USADA says she's not cheating, which means she can represent the U.S. in London and hopefully bring home a gold medal.

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