Over 800 drug cheats?

Wada to probe allegations of blood doping, tests from 2001-12 show abnormal results

The doping allegations have cast a big shadow over world athletics and threaten to steal the thunder from the upcoming world athletics championships in Beijing.
The doping allegations have cast a big shadow over world athletics and threaten to steal the thunder from the upcoming world athletics championships in Beijing.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • The head of world athletics vigorously defended the sport's anti-doping record yesterday, even as global sporting bodies called for a thorough probe of the latest allegations to plunge athletics into crisis.

Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and Germany's ARD/WDR broadcaster reported on Sunday they had obtained secret data from a whistleblower in the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), indicating suspicions of widespread blood doping.

However, IAAF president Lamine Diack said: "There are allegations made, but no evidence.

"We want to look into them seriously because to say that in athletics between 2001 and 2012, we did not do a serious job with tests is laughable."

He added that Arne Ljungqvist, the head of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission, had worked hard to combat doping during that period.

Coming only weeks before the world championships begin in Beijing on Aug 22, the reports claim endurance runners suspected of doping had been winning a third of the medals at the Olympics and world championships in that period.

The reports did not say that any athletes had failed doping tests, only that the tests had been abnormal, which can sometimes be a sign of cheating.

The allegations are the latest setback to tarnish the multi-billion- dollar world of sport after the corruption scandal at football's global governing body Fifa.

Athletics are a central part of the Olympics, the only sporting event that rivals football's World Cup in scale and which collects billions of dollars from sponsors like Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald's.

IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters yesterday he had spoken to the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) head Craig Reedie and had full confidence in that body to investigate the claims thoroughly.

Bach added the IOC would act with "zero tolerance" if there should be a case involving results at an Olympic Games.

Medals won could be affected if any cases of doping were subsequently unearthed using newer testing techniques that did not exist at the time.

"Behind all this, there is a desire to redistribute medals, take care of this," Diack, who will stand down as IAAF president this month, warned IOC members.

Former British runner Sebastian Coe and pole-vault legend Sergey Bubka are standing for the IAAF presidency. Both of them have called for a tough response to doping in athletics.

Athletics chiefs around the world have also called for a thorough inquiry.

"The accusations made must be properly investigated. We welcome the Wada's decision to probe the allegations made," said Athletics Australia president Phil Jones.

In the report, Australian doping expert Robin Parisotto and another scientist, Michael Ashendon, said more than 800 athletes had recorded one or more "abnormal" results, defined as a result that had less than one chance in 100 of being natural.

Such athletes accounted for 146 medals won at the top events, including 55 golds.

A heavy preponderance of the "abnormal" results was from Russian athletes, according to the media reports.

Russia accounted for 415 abnormal tests, followed distantly by Ukraine, Morocco, Spain, Kenya, Turkey and others.

The allegations concern techniques to improve the ability of blood to carry oxygen, which can give an advantage in endurance events like cycling or running over medium and long distances.

The All-Russian Athletics Federation said in a statement yesterday that it was "seriously concerned" by the claims and was examining the material released on Sunday.

The IAAF noted that the reports were based on confidential information that was obtained without permission.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Over 800 drug cheats?'. Subscribe