MONACO • The world athletics' governing body believes that women's world marathon record-holder Paula Radcliffe was "hounded remorselessly" over doping allegations that were proven wrong.
"The circumstances in which Ms Radcliffe came to be publicly accused are truly shocking," the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said on Friday, as it used the British runner's case to defend its own handling of accusations of widespread doping.
The IAAF said Radcliffe "was hounded remorselessly in the media for several weeks until she felt she had no option but to go public in her own defence".
"She has been publicly accused of blood doping based on the gross misinterpretation of raw and incomplete data."
Radcliffe admitted that she was relieved to be cleared after having her name wrongly dragged through the mud.
"It is a relief. It should never have come to this. The reason I spoke out was to protect myself and protect my name," the 41-year-old told BBC Sport.
An IAAF report said all the tests which media reports described as suspicious were "entirely innocent".
It particularly targeted Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and German broadcaster ARD for criticism.
Radcliffe's tests were among hundreds the media said were suspicious and that the IAAF had not properly followed up on.
The IAAF said it screened nearly 8,000 blood samples for potential markers of blood doping and followed up with thousands of urine tests to detect the presence of EPO which has led to 145 athletes being caught with the blood doping agent in their systems.
"The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and Dick Pound, the chair of its independent commission, have also stated clearly and unequivocally that no test data derived from the IAAF database prior to the adoption of the ABP (athlete biological passport) in 2009 can be considered to be proof of doping. It would be reckless, if not libellous, to make such an allegation," the IAAF said.
Radcliffe, who retired after this year's London Marathon, publicly denied cheating after a British parliamentary committee member made comments that appeared to implicate her.
A vocal campaigner against drug cheats during her career, she also allowed the tests to be made public after claiming the pressure being put on her to release the dates was "bordering on abuse".
She has always admitted to fluctuations in her blood test scores, but said they were down to entirely innocent reasons and she had been cleared by Wada.
The IAAF currently finds itself in its darkest hour, with newly-elected president Sebastian Coe battling to reform the organisation amid allegations of widespread corruption and evidence of systemic state- sponsored doping in Russia, which has led to a ban of the track and field's powerhouse.