CrossFit Games GM on Garard Suspension: “I Have a Hard Time Believing This Is News to Him”

The CrossFit Update Show has posted a new interview with Justin Bergh, the General Manager of the CrossFit Games, in which Sean Woodland spends almost twenty minutes questioning Bergh about the disqualification of the former third place finisher at this year’s Reebok CrossFit Games, Ricky Garard.

Woodland leaves no stone unturned, and few would say that he stuck to easy questions. In the interview, Bergh discusses how their testing policy works, why it took so long for Garard to receive his suspension, and his personal thoughts on Garard’s explanation of his actions. Woodland also asks three variations on the question that a lot of fans have been asking: don’t all the high level athletes take performance-enhancing drugs, anyway?

We’ve transcribed some of the most interesting responses beneath the video.

Q: What did Ricky Garard’s appeal look like?

Ricky’s appeal followed a couple of different tracks. The first was that he thought maybe it was a mistake and he had asked that his B sample be tested, which is a right the athlete has. We tested that B sample during that 10-day (appeal) period and the B sample confirmed the same result: that there were 2 banned substances in his sample, both the A sample and the B sample.

He also thought that he had done an improper amount of research or he mistakenly took one of those substances, but ultimately athletes are responsible for what they put in their body and we’re very clear about that in our drug testing policy and been very consistent with that over time. If you have a banned substance you’re guilty, for whatever reason, if it was a tainted supplement, if it was an intentional desire to cheat, it’s the same result in our mind. We don’t get to be subjective on that, it’s an objective thing. You’re on the wrong side of the line, that means you don’t get to play.

Q: What did you think of Garard’s explanation of his actions on Instagram?

From my perspective, I think that it’s gotta be a frustrating experience for an athlete to go through, to do as well as he did and then find out that your results have been invalidated.

I have a hard time believing that this is news to him. This is not a case like we’ve had others where it looks like, immediately following our notification, they go, “But look, here’s exactly what I was taking, I can’t believe it.” We have this happen most of the time.

The most frequent cause of failed tests in our sports are master’s athletes who think that they’re taking legally prescribed hormone replacement therapy which is actually banned in competition and they don’t know, or that people are taking tainted supplements. And as soon as this pops up they Google the supplements they’re taking, they go “Oops, this has a banned substance that may not be labeled.”

His wasn’t that case. And so this doesn’t appear to be purely accidental. I thought what was frustrating was at the middle of his response, he says that he knows there are other athletes that are outsmarting the system. And I think this is an opportunity for him as an athlete, if he has that information, he can share it with us, he can be part of a solution. But I think it’s damaging to other athletes and I think that’s what cheating does. It’s not just ruining the leaderboard, but it’s tarnishing the hard work, the talent, and the dedication that your fellow competitors have.

By going out like that, you’re saying that I think a lot of other people are also. And it’s dragging a lot of good athletes, a lot of clean athletes that are doing the right thing, it’s sullying their reputation. And I think that’s unfair to them.

Q: He had two tests, one in May and one in August. Why are we just hearing about this now?

There was nothing to report after Regionals. He provided a sample after competing in Regionals, that sample was tested and it didn’t show any adverse findings.

At the CrossFit Games he was tested again. The reason it’s taken a little time is it takes several weeks to get all the samples tested, once the’y’e tested we notify the athletes if there’s a positive result, and then Ricky began the appeal process, so as part of the appeal we tested the B sample, so it took a little longer to get back. And we give the athlete the opportunity to engage with us before making this publicly known.

At about 13:15, Woodland begins a series of questions about allegations that all CrossFit athletes are using and that the top “money maker” athletes are protected by CrossFit HQ. Bergh responds in part:

We’ve never done that, and I think it’s a short sighted argument. The worst thing for CrossFit is not that you have a top athlete that tests positive, the worst thing for CrossFit is that there’s a controversy about trying to hide this kind of thing.

Dave (Castro) and I are of the exact same mind. We want to get this out into the public as soon as possible. Respecting the athlete and their appeal process, but trying to get this out as quickly and transparently as possible. It wasn’t CrossFit that did something wrong here, there was an athlete who was on the wrong side of the line. We haven’t handled this incorrectly or inappropriately, we never have. We’ve published very single instance that we’ve had. (…)

So the worst thing that can happen to our organization is that you are hiding something like that. And we’re very respectful of that and we don’t do that because that’s the most damaging thing that could happen. So if you want to attack our integrity and say that we’re hiding things, all I have to say is we’ve published every single result. There is nothing to hide, and that would be the worst thing.

Featured image via @rickygarard on Instagram.