'Cover-up' link cited in drug test fallout

A man walks past the Olympic rings.
A man walks past the Olympic rings. PHOTO: REUTERS

Tainted Balco founder alleges fresh scandal shows authorities turn a blind eye to cheats

NEW YORK • Victor Conte, the man at the centre of what was the United States' biggest doping scandal, believes the latest drug scandal to rock the sports world is all part of a cover-up to protect the bottom line.

Track and field was jolted after a blockbuster report last weekend alleged widespread doping in the sport.

Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and Germany's ARD/WDR broadcaster said they had obtained secret data from global athletics' governing body, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), showing endurance runners suspected of doping have been winning a third of Olympic and world championship medals.

Conte, who ran a little Bay Area laboratory called Balco on the outskirts of San Francisco that became the epicentre of a massive doping scandal in the early 2000s, said the reports show a lack of genuine interest by world sport's anti-doping chiefs to catch cheaters and smacks of a cover-up to protect financial interests.

"There is a financial conflict of interest," he said. "These tests are bad for business. Many positive drug tests over the years, I personally know about, have been covered up. The reason is... it is bad business."


I believe there is a lack of genuine interest in catching these athletes.

VICTOR CONTE Convicted drug supplier who is now an anti-doping campaigner.


The reputation of the IAAF is at stake and we are a member of this organisation.

VADIM ZELICHENOK Acting head of Russia's athletics federation, on the options open to the world body.

Sponsors and television-rights holders are increasingly concerned about linking their brands and products with scandal-hit events and organisations such as football's world governing body Fifa, which is currently embroiled in a widespread corruption and money laundering investigation.

Many track and field athletes receive performance bonuses for winning gold medals, with agents, coaches, and federations all cashing in on the winners.

"I believe this (covering up positive tests) goes on in the United States, I believe it goes on in Russia, I believe it is like East Germany - this is what it is. And what is driving all this? It's the money," said Conte. "It's about money, it's about corruption."

Conte told Reuters back in 2012 that he believed cheating was rife in sports despite improved testing, and that more than half the sprint semi-finalists at the London Olympics are likely to use illegal drugs at some stage of their preparations.

"I believe there is a lack of genuine interest in catching these athletes, they don't want to know it's bad for business," said Conte. "In my opinion it (Russia) is like East Germany in the '70s. It is state-sponsored doping.

"I believe probably 80 per cent of elite athletes, probably higher, are using (performance-enhancing drugs)."

Despite the allegation of widesptread doping among its stars, Russia's athletic federation said it will not take any action before the World Championships in Beijing later this month.

"The IAAF is very worried and will conduct an investigation into this (the allegations) and could also open legal proceedings," Vadim Zelichenok, the acting head of the body, said. "We will not take any action before the World Championships, which start in Beijing on Aug 22. We physically won't be able to do anything before then.

"The reputation of the IAAF is at stake and we are a member of this organisation. We will see what they do and it is possible we could go down the same route."

According to The Sunday Times and ARD/WDR, the results of 12,000 blood tests provided by more than 5,000 athletes showed more than 800 athletes had given samples that were "highly suggestive" of doping, or abnormal. Of those, 415 were Russians.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2015, with the headline ''Cover-up' link cited in drug test fallout'. Print Edition | Subscribe