GOLD Coast triathlete Rebekah Keat's $60,000 fight to officially clear her name has begun.
The 29-year-old yesterday filed a lawsuit against Hammer Nutrition in California, alleging her positive drug test in 2004 was caused by the use of the company's supplements which were contaminated with the steroid precursor norandrostenedione.
It comes after the former junior triathlon and duathlon world champion was suspended from her sport for two years after failing a drug test following her win in the 2004 Ironman Western Australia.
Although she returned to competition last year and was crowned Australian ironman triathlon champion, Keat said the legal action was part of the vindication process and not about the money.
"The pain of being labelled a drug cheat and not being able to clear my name was soul destroying and something I would not wish upon my worst enemy," said Keat, who is being represented by Californian-based law firm Howard L. Jacobs.
"All it's about is me clearing my name.
"I wouldn't care if I don't get anything as long as I can name this company and not have any other athlete going through what I went through.
"It's cost me an arm and a leg. I still owe over $60,000 in legal bills that I'm paying back so if I can get them paid at least, I'd be happy"
Despite an appeal hearing where the Court Arbitration for Sport accepted Keat's positive drug test was due to supplement contamination, she was still determined to clear her name and pursue legal action.
Keat's identical twin Simone assisted with the legal process to help her sister prove her innocence and even postponed plans to return overseas to commit herself to the cause.
After two years of global searching, a WADA laboratory agreed to test the Endurolyte supplements Keat had been given by her sponsor for steroids or steroid precursors.
The laboratory later reported that the testing had revealed they were in fact contaminated with norandrostenedione in an amount that was consistent with Keat's positive drug test.
Keat revealed how emotionally drained she had been and said without her sister's help she would never have been able to attempt to clear her name.
"At the time I didn't really think life was worth living," said Keat.
"She (Simone) moved back to Australia and basically mothered me for the first year when I was really struggling and trying to find an answer.
"She did all the research and got it all sorted for me and supported me all the way through it.
"She's always been my best friend. She's stuck by me and told me to keep plugging away and we'd get an answer."
Simone said her sister was the first Australian athlete to obtain evidence that their supplements had been contaminated. However, there have been similar cases internationally.
Joining Keat in the lawsuit against Hammer Nutrition are US cyclist Amber Neben and Canadian triathlete Mike Vine, who are all alleging the company's supplements had contained norandrostendedione.
Keat said she hoped she could now focus on her sport.
"Being innocent I never gave up. I knew I had to have faith that the truth would one day unfold," said Keat.
"Nothing can give me back my two years, but my self worth and soul are slowly rebuilding.
"I just want to focus 100 per cent on what I love, triathlon, and strive to achieve my dream of winning Hawaii Ironman."