Silken laumann fails drug test

In March 1995, Canada’s favourite rower, Silken Laumann, tested positive for using a banned substance at the Pan-Am games in Argentina.

Laumann had a cold and on doctors orders had taken Benadryl. But she accidently took the wrong kind of Benadryl.


The kind she took contained pseudoephedrine which was on the list of banned stimulants for athletes at the games.

Five days earlier at the Pan-Am Games Laumann had rowed to victory in the women’s single sculls and the next day captured another gold in the women’s quadruple event.


Laumann and crewmates Marnie McBean, Diane O’Grady and Wendy Wiebe won the event by an 11 second margin over the Cuban boat.

Then a Games official revealed that Laumann’s anti-doping test had shown illegal levels of the banned stimulant pseudoephedrine.

On March 23, the Pan-American Sports Organization revoked the Canadian crew’s gold medal.


At a news conference in Victoria, where she lives, Laumann lashed out at the decision, saying that she had only inadvertently used a prohibited medication. 

Although she acknowledged part of the responsibility for taking the wrong medication, Laumann laid heavy blame on the two doctors who told her the Benadryl was okay to take.

Laumann captured Canadian hearts in 1992 when she won a bronze medal at the Barcelona Olympics just 10 weeks after shattering her right leg in a brutal rowing accident. She retired from rowing in 1999.

For more stories from the 90s, check out my podcast “History of the 90s” available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at

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