Harvard cross country and track standout Lindsey E. Scherf ’08 was officially suspended from track and field competition worldwide by the United States Anti-Doping Administration (USADA) on Nov. 2 and will remain ineligible to compete through Sept. 21, 2008, according to a press release by the USADA.
The suspension comes as a result of Scherf’s refusal to take a drug test after the Gold Coast Marathon in Brisbane, Australia on July 1, a race in which she finished second.
Scherf’s one-year suspension dates from Sept. 21, when a provisional suspension was imposed, and has left her exploring options to extend her collegiate running career.
“I have a year of eligibility left, so [I am] hopefully pursuing a master’s degree and competing for another year at the NCAA level, then hopefully for a few years professionally,” Scherf said.
In discussing the case, both Scherf and USADA have emphasized the role of an apparent abundance of misunderstandings that occurred at the Brisbane event.
According to a statement from USADA, the leniency of the penalty—half the normal punishment for similar offenses—was due to “the unusual circumstances in [Scherf’s] case.”
“Scherf refused to submit to sample collection in part because she was unsure about the requirement for a therapeutic use exemption in order to use her asthma medication,” the release said.
“Scherf now acknowledges that her decision to refuse the doping control test was not excused by these circumstances,” the statement continues, “but at the time...she believed she was justified in doing so.”
“I was assessed the smallest penalty that USADA’s rules allowed (half the normal two-year suspension) because USADA found that I had ‘no significant fault or negligence’ in this matter,” Scherf wrote in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “There was never any dispute of the facts in this matter. Only the appropriate penalty was in question.”
The University has not released any statement about the suspension. Track and field coach Jason Saretsky also declined to comment.
While competing for Harvard, Scherf was named an All-American four times, and, as a sophomore, broke the world junior record in the 10,000 meters at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonals Championships. She holds the school record in both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter events, and finished 38th and 53rd at the NCAA cross-country championships in her first and second year as a Crimson athlete, respectively. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]
She participated in only one race this season, finishing eighth in the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet on Sept. 15.
The incident in Brisbane came as Scherf spent the 2006-2007 academic year studying abroad in Australia and training on her own with an eye toward the 2008 Olympics.
The suspension ruling stands to be finalized in December. According to Scherf, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has until Nov. 30 to review the suspension.
According to USADA records, Scherf has never failed a doping test, testing negative in 2004 and 2005.
Carla O’Connell, a spokeswoman for the USADA, had no further information when contacted by The Crimson.
—Staff writer Loren Amor contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: The Nov. 13 news article "Track Star Suspended" incorrectly stated that cross country standout Lindsey E. Scherf '08 broke the world junior record in the 10,000 meters. In fact, Scherf broke the American junior record.