Doping probe reveals 18 substitute urine samples

MONTREAL • Weightlifters from six countries are suspected of supplying false urine samples after an investigation found evidence of "doppelgangers" being used to impersonate athletes, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said on Thursday.

Wada said the 18 cases, uncovered as part of a wide-ranging probe into the scandal-tainted International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), will be forwarded to the International Testing Agency for review.

A Wada statement said the fraudulent urine samples had been uncovered after the agency's investigators developed a new methodology to identify substituted urine with help in part from confidential sources and analysis experts.

DNA analysis found 18 cases and evidence that lookalikes had been used to impersonate athletes during the sample collection process, to ensure that "clean" urine was provided.

The countries of the athletes involved were not disclosed.

"Wada is appalled by what its Intelligence and Investigations Department has uncovered in this investigation," president Witold Banka said in a statement.

"For too long, clean weightlifters have had to deal with an entrenched culture of doping in their sport, where the promotion of fear ensured that the truth remained hidden and that those who wanted to do the right thing were isolated.

"Once again, this has shown the importance of whistle-blower information and the positive difference that can be made when people with information have the courage to come forward.

"Intelligence from well-placed confidential sources, coupled with the diligent work of Wada Intelligence and Investigations, is delivering significant results across a host of investigations."

Banka said the results of Wada's probe highlighted the need to potentially strengthen the agency's investigatory powers, including granting "unfettered access to all relevant internal documents and servers within the organisation under investigation".

The discovery was part of multiple and ongoing Wada probes that began in 2017, including Operation Arrow, a covert investigation into the practice of urine substitution at the point of collection.

The IWF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Weightlifting has been in turmoil since January when a documentary by German TV channel ARD revealed what it described as a "culture of corruption" in the sport intended to mask the use of doping.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Doping probe reveals 18 substitute urine samples'. Print Edition | Subscribe