Clara Hughes is likely one of Canada’s best-loved Olympic heroes, and with the recent publication of her memoir, Open Heart, Open Mind, Hughes has revealed a 1994 doping infraction that had, before now, not been revealed in her career.
Clara Hughes is tied for having the most Olympic medals won by a Canadian Olympian with speedskater Cindy Klassen. Hughes is actually one of an elite few that competed in both Summer and Winter Olympics and medalled in both events.
According to the Globe and Mail, Clara Hughes snagged two bronze medals in road cycling in Atlanta in 1996. She was a gold medalist in the 5,000 meter long track event at Turin in 2006 and also won silver in the team pursuit. She also picked up bronze in the 5,000 meters in 2002 in Salt Lake City and in 2010 in Vancouver.
The doping allegation came in 1994, but Clara Hughes swears that she did nothing wrong. “To this day, I don’t know how that happened. I have never talked about it,” she said during an interview with the National‘s Adrienne Arsenault. “I have no reason for it. I have no excuse for it. But it is real. And it makes me sick. It actually makes me sick because I know I didn’t do anything, and it is so empty to say that 21 years later.”
At the time, Clara Hughes had been advised, in the wake of the three-month cycling suspension she received as a result of the matter, to not discuss it with anyone. In her autobiography, Clara Hughes also chronicles her battle with depression and with an eating disorder. She notes that her cycling and sports career came about because she was seeking refuge from a verbally abusive, alcoholic father, and that her battle with an eating disorder seemed to begin at the hands of a coach she once had.
She noted during the interview that there are still times where she feels “200 pounds,” although she is well aware that she does not weigh 200 pounds. Clara Hughes said she was regularly berated by a cycling coach to the point where the coach in question made fun of her for taking the last piece of cheese out of the fridge.
Cycling Canada noted it could not approve of the way Clara Hughes’ doping infraction was handled in 1994 when it actually occurred. Clara Hughes said when discussing the hidden infraction, she was still uncertain of how to discuss the matter.
“Cycling Canada cannot condone how this matter was handled at the time by any of those involved. Regardless of the practices of the day, Cycling Canada believes in full, fair and open disclosure of all doping related offences,” the organization said in a statement.
Clara Hughes’ memoir Open Heart, Open Mind is set to be released September 8, 2015.
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)