Hassan Mead Says He Was Retired When He Tested Positive for PEDs in October

By Jonathan Gault
November 29, 2022

On Tuesday, USADA announced that Hassan Mead, a 2016 U.S. Olympian in the 5,000 meters and the 2017 USATF champion in the 10,000 meters, has been suspended for three years after testing positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition test on October 17. Mead tested positive for ostarine and di-hydroxy-LGD-4033, a metabolite of ligandrol, two substances that aid in muscle growth. Mead admitted the violation, reducing his ban from four years to three. His suspension began November 2.

The 33-year-old Mead turned professional in 2012, signing with Nike and Oregon Track Club Elite after a decorated career at the University of Minnesota. He is the second OTC Elite athlete to be sanctioned for a doping offense in 2022; Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist at 800 meters, was provisionally suspended on July 12 after testing positive for the banned metabolic modulator GW1516.

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Mead told LetsRun.com there is a simple explanation for his positive test — he retired earlier in the year and was focused on getting bigger in the gym.

“I’m 6’2 and I’m 138 pounds,” Mead says. “I’m not running 100 miles a week anymore. I like lifting. I was out there just lifting to gain a bit of muscle…For the last 10 years when I was a competitor, I didn’t take anything over the counter that was not third-party tested [or] that was on the prohibited list. But in this case, I was like, I’m done, I’m not going to be around the sport anymore.”

After he was informed of his positive test, Mead says he concluded that the banned substances likely stemmed from a pre-workout drink that he bought from a vending machine at a Portland gym a few days before he was tested.

Mead vehemently denied taking any performance-enhancing drugs during his competitive career, during which he represented the US at three World Championships and the 2016 Olympics and ran personal bests of 13:02 and 27:38.

What would he say to those who will now question his entire career because of this positive test?

“They’re entitled to their opinion,” Mead says. “Those that know me and have been around me, I don’t need to explain it to them. They know when I retired before anyone else knew [publicly]…Anyone who knows me knows I would never. That’s all I need to say. I don’t really think I need to spend too much energy defending myself when those that know me know what actually happened.”

Mead never officially turned in his retirement papers until after he tested positive

Mead told LetsRun.com that he has considered himself retired since dropping out of the 5,000 meters at the 2022 Pre Classic on May 27. Shortly after that race, he informed his coach Mark Rowland and his agent Stephen Haas that he was retiring (Haas confirmed this to LetsRun.com). Around this time, Mead was also told that his Eugene-based team, OTC Elite, would no longer be supported by Nike after the conclusion of the World Championships in July.

Mead says that, out of routine and loyalty to his teammates who were still training, he continued showing up to practices with OTC Elite until the USATF Outdoor Championships (June 23-26), but that he has not run a step since USAs. He remained in Eugene until his lease expired on September 1, at which point he moved to Portland, where he now works in sales.

However, because Mead did not file his retirement paperwork with USATF until after he tested positive (his official retirement date is November 8), he remained in the testing pool until then.

“I had teammates that, when they didn’t race, they got removed from the list,” Mead says. “I just figured when they didn’t see me compete for six months, they were going to remove me from the testing pool. But they never did.”

Mead says he was tested on June 28 (negative) and then on October 17. During the latter test, Mead says, the doping control officer who collected his sample urged him to file his paperwork to remove himself from the pool.

Haas, who also represented the now-banned Shelby Houlihan, told LetsRun.com he did not find out about Mead’s positive test until USADA made the news public on Tuesday. Haas said he believes Mead’s explanation.

“I challenge you: you cannot find anybody in this entire sport who has met Hassan Mead that has anything bad to say about him,” Haas says. “He is the nicest guy, he’s one of my favorite all-time athletes. I got along with him so well. I know for a fact that he would never do anything to try to tarnish our reputation and his reputation and I just feel bad for him because this is just a shitty situation for him to find himself in after such a good career.”

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Mead admitted to the rule violation and does not dispute the fact that he took a drink that likely contained substances banned under the WADA Code. If he could do it over, he says, he would have filed retirement papers in June once he knew he was done competing.

“It’s on me when I retire to submit the proper paperwork,” Mead says. “I’m not saying it’s their fault. No, it’s on me. I just didn’t. Do I regret it? 100%. But that’s the only mistake I ever made, was not submitting those papers.”

Mead says that his biggest regret is that, because of his mistake, those with whom he was associated in the sport — teammates, coaches, agents — will now face extra scrutiny for their connection to him.

“I wish I would have submitted the papers early not for my sake but…to protect allegations, speculation and rumors about my active teammates that are competing now, that are still in the game,” Mead says. “In this sport, it’s easy to pick on the negative side…I never meant to inflict any source of harm on my friends, my teammates, my colleagues and the sport. The sport has given me something I can never give back.”

One of his ex-teammates, Pat Casey, has already rallied to Mead’s defense on Twitter:

Mead is considered retired now so he’s not in the drug testing pool; he’d have to get back in if he ever unretires

As mentioned above, Mead officially filed his retirement paperwork on November 8. As a result, Mead is no longer in any out-of-competition testing pool. USADA noted in its press release that: “Under the [WADA] Code, all athletes serving a period of ineligibility for an anti-doping rule violation are required to continue to make themselves available for testing in order to receive credit for time completed under their sanction.” Which means that, should Mead ever decide to return to competition, he would only be cleared to compete after unretiring and making himself available for testing for the remaining period of his ban (of which he has currently served only seven days).

Mead had the option to continue making himself available for testing, which would allow him to come back once his three-year suspension is up. But Mead did not see the point in doing so as he says he has no plans to return to the sport.

“I appreciate what the sport did for me,” Mead says. “It opened an opportunity, it allowed me to see the world. But I was never passionate enough to do anything with the sport [once I retired]…I just never saw my road in track and field.”

Mead is not the only athlete who has used retirement to explain an anti-doping violation. Chris Lukezic, the 2006 US indoor champion at 1500 meters, was suspended for two years by USADA for refusing to take an out-of-competition test on April 20, 2010 (April 20 is a day on which thousands of Americans celebrate marijuana usage). Lukezic had publicly announced his retirement in November 2009 but had not filed official retirement paperwork. In 2013, US sprinter Shawn Crawford, the 2004 Olympic 200m champion, was banned two years for failing to update his whereabouts. His agent said at the time that Crawford had retired after the 2012 Olympic Trials but did not file the proper paperwork.

There have been other similar cases this year. 2012 Olympic high jump champion Erik Kynard was handed a six-month ban in May for an IV infusion he received in January; Kynard, who last competed in July 2021, said he retired after last season but did not submit his paperwork. And on the same day as Mead’s ban, USADA announced that 2:32 marathoner Lindsey Scherf has been suspended after testing positive for an anabolic agent in December 2021. World Athletics lists Scherf’s last result as the Great Cow Harbor 10K in September 2021. Scherf accepted her sanction and filed formal retirement papers on March 14, 2022; it is unclear whether she considered herself an active athlete at the time of her positive test.

Haas says he told Mead earlier this year about the requirements to formally retire. Moving forward, he said, he will emphasize that point even more.

“I am going to preach to any athlete that I have from now on to file their retirement paperwork as soon as they stop running,” Haas says.


Talk about Mead’s positive test on the LetsRun.com forum:

MB: Hassan Mead popped – Tests positive for ostarine and is banned for 3 years.

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