International athletics body refutes blood test allegations
ALLEGATIONS that international athletics officials turned a blind eye to suspicious blood tests involving hundreds of athletes have been strenuously denied by the IAAF, the governing body for the sport.
A lengthy and detailed response by the IAAF to the claims by a German broadcaster said the allegations were "sensationalist and confusing". German broadcaster ARD/WDR gained access to a database containing more than 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes. It claimed more than 800 athletes - and a third of all medallists in endurance events at recent Olympics and World Championships - had suspicious blood test results which were not followed up by the IAAF.
The IAAF said in its response: "The published allegations were sensationalist and confusing: the results referred to were not positive tests. In fact, ARD and The Sunday Times both admit that their evaluation of the data did not prove doping."
Two anti-doping experts commissioned by ARD - scientist Robin Parisotto and exercise physiologist Michael Ashenden - said the blood test results were "highly suggestive of doping or, at the very least, abnormal".
Ashenden was also critical of the IAAF, saying: "For the IAAF to have harvested millions of dollars from the broadcasting of athletics events around the world... yet only devote a relative pittance of those funds towards anti-doping when they could see the terrible truth of what lay beneath the surface is... a shameful betrayal of their primary duty to police their sport and to protect clean athletes."
In its response, the IAAF said: "What the IAAF cannot accept under any circumstances from the ARD/Sunday Times, or the scientists whom they have retained, is an accusation that it has breached its primary duty to act in the best interests of the sport of athletics. The experts have never worked for the IAAF and are therefore in no position to make any comment regarding what the IAAF has done or not done in the development and implementation of its blood and urine target testing programme.
"To do so is simply guess work on their part. The IAAF categorically refutes all allegations made by ARD and The Sunday Times and, specifically, that it failed in its duty to pursue an effective blood testing programme at all times."
The IAAF also issued a quote from Professor Giuseppe d'Onofrio, who it said is one of the world's leading haematologists working as an expert in the field of the athlete biological passport.
D'Onofrio said: "Ethically, I deplore public comments coming from colleagues on blood data that has been obtained and processed outside of the strict regulatory framework established by WADA, which is designed to ensure a complete and fair review of ABP profiles. There is no space for shortcuts, simplistic approaches or sensationalism when athletes' careers and reputations are at stake."
The IAAF response added:
- The data on which the reports were based was not 'secret', saying it published a detailed analysis of this data more than four years ago.
- That it did follow up suspicious results on six specific athletes, saying: "In fact, as the newspaper was told before publication, each test led to intensive follow up, as a result of which the six athletes were subsequently caught cheating and banned."
- That under its athlete biological passport (ABP) system "more athletes have been banned for cheating by the IAAF than all other sports federations and national anti-doping agencies put together".
"It is important to be very clear that a large proportion of these blood samples were collected in a period before the implementation of the ABP and cannot therefore be used as proof of doping," said the IAAF.
"We refute outright any allegation that the IAAF did not appropriately follow up suspicious profiles which had been proactively identified through its world leading blood profiling programme.
"While the ARD and The Sunday Times may wish to pretend they have a 'scoop' by reporting on suspected prevalence of doping, their efforts are, in fact, over four years behind those of the IAAF. The IAAF has already publicly published (in 2011) a review of its blood profiles in a peer reviewed journal. Far from hiding from these statistics, to our knowledge the IAAF is the only sport in the world to have openly reported, reviewed and analysed the statistics available in its long-term blood profiling database."
Sebastian Coe, who is standing in the election to be the next IAAF president, has promised to take a hard line on drugs.
He said in his presidential manifesto: "The fight against those who continue to lie and cheat is not over - far from it - and it is crucial that we continue to increase resources in this battle for our sport's integrity and now is the time to dramatically close the gap between a positive test and the relevant sanction."