Just the facts: Taurasi and Modafinil

Speculation, fan outrage and unsubstantiated claims have made the rounds of the women’s basketball world after news broke Thursday that WNBA star and former UConn standout Diana Taurasi tested positive for the drug modafinil while playing in Turkey. The drug has been on World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances for several years.

According to the Turkish Basketball Federation, the urine sample taken from Diana Taurasi was “after a game between Istanbul University and Fenerbahçe … tested positive for modafinil, one of the illegal substances on WADA’s banned stimulants list, according to preliminary test results.”

The Facts

Where did the leak of information come from?

The news of a positive drug test originated from a leak. The source of the leak is unknown. It could have come from someone associated with Fenerbahçe, the Turkish league, a friend of someone on the team or any number of other sources. There is no evidence detailing the exact source of the leak.

What lab was used to test Taurasi’s sample?

The lab that tested Taurasi’s sample is located at Hacettepe University, a major state university in Ankara, Turkey. The World Anti-Doping Agency suspended the lab in the spring of 2009 for three months for not meeting quality laboratory standards. During the suspension period, WADA conducted a site visit of the lab to ensure proper corrective actions had been implemented. The lab was reinstated on June 30, 2009.

What is modafinil?

Modafinil is a stimulant is used to treat narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder and prevents excessive sleepiness according to the National Institutes of health. The drug has been on the list of WADA banned substances since 2004. U.S. Sprinter Kelli White tested positive for the drug at the world track and field championships in Paris in 2003. She lost her world championship medals and was banned from competition for two years including prohibition from the 2004 Summer Olympics. Other athletes who have tested positive for modafinil: track and field athletes Chris Phillips, Chryste Gaines, Sandra Glover, Eric Thomas and John McEwen.

USA Basketball’s statement

“At this point we’re aware of the situation, and we’re monitoring things and letting the process take its course,” USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said. “Until that happens, we can’t comment.”

The WNBA’s take

As of Friday, WNBA spokesman Ron Howard said the league had no comment.

Next steps?

Taurasi has to wait the results of a “B” sample to find out if her case is grounds for suspension. If the sample is positive, a suspension of six months or more would likely lead to her being banned from competing in the next Summer Olympics in 2012. In 2008, the International Olympic Committee passed a rule that prohibits athletes from competing in the next Summer or Winter Games if they have served a doping suspension for a period of six months or longer.

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