Tottenham Hotspur’s Chioma Ubogagu has been charged with an anti-doping violation and has accepted a nine-month suspension due to a substance found in her acne medication.
Last year, Ubogagu was prescribed two forms of medication while in the United States by a dermatologist to treat her persistent acne.
When she signed with Spurs, Ubogagu continued to take the medication, unbeknownst to her that one of them is a diuretic, a type of medication that can act as a masking agent, hiding the effects of other prohibited substances.
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Ubogagu did not receive any athletic advantage by taking the medication.
Both Ubogagu and the club were only made aware of the situation once she needed a refill. The club doctor immediately got in contact with the FA and UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) regarding her use of a banned substance.
Ubogagu, who has played for Arsenal, Houston Dash, Orlando Pride, and Real Madrid, has been unavailable for selection since the provisional suspension was imposed in January, and will not be eligible to feature for the club until she has served her suspension that runs until October 2022.
“I am so sorry to my teammates and staff that I can’t be out on the pitch,” said Ubogagu in an official club statement.
“The club has been fully supportive throughout this entire process, and I am so appreciative of all their help. My faith, family, and close friends have helped me immensely in this difficult time. I am eager to be back soon now that this has been resolved.
“I want to make clear that the medication had no performance-enhancing effects for me, but I still made the mistake of not being as diligent as possible, and as a result, I am unable to play the game I love until I serve my suspension. While my dermatologist is aware of my profession, it is also my responsibility to know more about the medications I am prescribed.
In an interview with The Players Tribune, Ubogagu shared that when the club doctor revealed that her medication included a banned substance, her “stomach sank.”
“I got goosebumps. I kind of froze for a second and then I had to explain to Craig [Spurs’ team doctor], ‘Hey, listen, I was actually drug tested three weeks ago … I think this could be a problem.’” I didn’t sleep much that night, but all credit to Craig and the Spurs staff who took control of the situation when I felt totally helpless.
“They got in contact with UK Anti-Doping to explain what had happened and started the process of applying for a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption). They even sent me to a local dermatologist who looked at my case history and was like, ‘Yeah, I would've prescribed the same.’” The club had to give some statements and file some paperwork in the following weeks, but I was still playing in games, so as time went on, I started to relax.”
Even after she failed the drug test, Ubogagu was calm about the situation, thinking that the club had it handled. It wasn’t until head coach Rehanne Skinner sat her down and told her that the ban could be from two to four years that it really hit home how serious the situation was.
“That was the first time I genuinely understood how bad this could be. Not long after that, I got the news that my TUE was denied — turns out I would’ve had to apply for it before taking the medication — and on January 18, 2022, I was sent my provisional suspension by the FA.
“There I was in my flat reading this letter that said I can’t train with the team, I can’t go to games, I can’t even be in the facility. Nothing. This is really happening.
“You know, there’s only a certain amount of time you can do this job, and two to four years is such a prime chunk,” shared Ubogagu.
“At my age — I’m 29 — you start to think, Is this it? Because of acne medication?”
“Had someone told me a year ago that I’d be celebrating a ban of nine months at this stage in my career, I would’ve thought they were crazy … but everything in perspective, right? Nine months is long, but it’s not The End. I’m buzzing that I’ll be back next season and I just wanna make the remaining years I have left count.
Ubogagu thinks it’s important to share her story because she wants other athletes to make sure they’re more careful than she was, because “the system doesn’t really make concessions for mistakes, however honest.”
“The law is black and white, but the reality is far more complex.”
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