Former NCAA and USATF pole vault champion Demi Payne tested positive for a banned substance in 2016 and has received a four-year sanction, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced on Friday. Payne, 26, accepted the ban, and her four-year suspension began on March 31, 2016.
The 2015 USATF Indoor and NCAA Outdoor champion’s sample tested positive for the anabolic agent drostanolone and its metabolite, 2a-methyl-5a-androstan-3a-ol-17-one, at the 2016 USATF Indoor Championships. Payne finished third at that championship in Portland, Oregon, but has forfeited the result and every other result after March 12, 2016, the date her positive urine sample was provided.
After the initial positive test, an investigation was launched after USADA received an anonymous email claiming that contaminated drinks were present at the event where Payne tested positive. But upon the completion of USADA’s investigation, this was determined to be false.
Payne has not competed since the 2016 Olympic Trials, and won’t be eligible to return to competition until the 2020 outdoor season. The former Stephen F. Austin All-American enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, as she set the NCAA indoor record in the pole vault (4.75m) that January before winning the NCAA outdoor title in June.
Before 2015, Payne's PR in the event was 4.25m from 2013. Later that same year, Payne gave birth to a daughter.
In February of 2016, less than a month before her positive test, Payne set her personal best of 4.90m at the Millrose Games.
2018 IAAF World Indoor pole vault champion Sandi Morris, who finished second behind Payne at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships, tweeted her thoughts on the news on Friday:
For anyone who knows my story & career, you know this affects me on a personal level. Trying to gather thoughts/emotions. Will get back to you about them after I let it all sink in. Initial reaction? Well, I KNEW - but now it’s no longer just a suspicion. https://t.co/BEohOBzZ3q— Sandi Morris, OLY (@sandicheekspv) August 24, 2018
UPDATE: Demi Payne released a statement from her Twitter account on September 6 in which she says she does not know how the banned substance drostanolone got into her system:
"My name is Demi Payne and I am a dedicated pole vaulter, proud mother, and Olympic hopeful.
Two and a half years ago, immediately following the U.S. Indoor Championship, I tested positive for a steroid called Drostanolone, for which I remain unsure of how it entered my body. I have remained silent since my sanction went public because I needed time to find the right words when I speak my truth and tell my story.
For the past two and a half years, I have made it my mission to prove the truth, that I never knowingly took Drostanolone. I have spent every dollar I have trying to prove my innocence. I hired lawyers, took polygraph tests (with truthful outcomes), had my vitamin supplements tested, and have followed every possible lead I’ve received.
Two months ago, after running out of funds and time, I accepted a retroactive ban from the USADA that is set to expire a few months before the 2020 Olympic trials, in which I hope to earn a spot. Did Drostanolone show up in my system? Yes. Do I know how it got there? No. It’s as simple as that. I have remained silent to try and focus on my training and to be the best mother I can be to my daughter. I am not a perfect person, but I know I am not a liar and the comments I’ve seen on social media, although heartbreaking, will not change the person that I am.
Moving forward, I know I must be more vigilant. That accidently taking the wrong supplement or drinking the wrong energy drink, can change the course of your life. I am not blaming anyone or trying to play the victim, I accept full responsibility for somehow encountering the substance, even though I will never know the source.
Despite how difficult this has been, I believe everything happens for a reason and through this I have learned my own strength. For the next year and half, I will continue to train as hard as I possibly can until the ban is lifted in March of 2020. I am beyond thankful for my friends and family and the people God has placed in my life, that lift me up and give me encouragement when it’s most needed."