Athletics: 'Failure' leads to drug use

By Anna Rushworth

New Zealand's Liza Hunter-Galvan is ashamed at her decision to take drugs and is considering counselling. Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand's Liza Hunter-Galvan is ashamed at her decision to take drugs and is considering counselling. Photo / Getty Images

Disgraced runner Liza Hunter-Galvan says she began using a banned substance after sporting chiefs labelled her Olympic performance a failure.

The decision has left her career in tatters - Hunter-Galvan has been handed a two-year suspension after admitting taking erythropoietin (EPO) three times in February and March this year.

Speaking from her San Antonio home in Texas yesterday, the marathon runner said she was now considering counselling and turning to Prozac.

Hunter-Galvan, 40, said she was under constant pressure from her sport's ruling body, Athletics New Zealand. First she faced a contentious legal battle for selection to compete in last year's Beijing Olympics. "They fought me to the bone. I quit work and sacrificed time with my family."

But when she finished a disappointing 35th she started to question their support.

"Basically, when I finished the race, I just felt all this anger. I thought I could have done better if I hadn't been put through all this nonsense."

Hunter-Galvan said she then received a series of emails from Athletics New Zealand asking for an explanation for her performance.

"That really got to me because they were calling me a failure."

On February 25 she said she received an email from Kevin Ankrom, high performance director at Athletics New Zealand.

The email contained the words "Confidential and Legally Privileged" and stated: "Your performance in Beijing from a High Performance expectation and view would be, "NOT good - you failed'."

Hunter-Galvan said "I kind of made a really bad choice" and bought EPO the next day. I decided to see if it could help me with my hamstring, I wasn't really looking for an edge."

But she admitted that by the time she took the three shots she knew what the drug was and that it was banned.

Hunter-Galvan injected the drug on February 26 and March 13 and 20. "After the first shot I had really bad stomach pains and I couldn't even run. I just got really scared."

Crying, as she spoke to the Herald on Sunday, she said: "It's so bad. I am so ashamed."

Kevin Ankrom said he could not remember the email sent to Hunter-Galvan but said every athlete is under pressure.

"By no means has Athletics New Zealand pushed any kind of drug in any kind of way, that's the athlete's fault, not ours. We are not putting any pressure on athletes, we're trying to help and support them."

Athletics New Zealand chief executive Scott Newman said he had no knowledge of the email from Ankrom, but said Hunter-Galvan was "scapegoating."

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 25 Oct 2014 08:11:06 Processing Time: 598ms