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Drugs in Sport

The news this week could hardly be worse. The allegations are that senior members of the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) took bribes in return for suppressing the results of failed drugs tests, enabling athletes to avoid a ban. Full details are not in the public domain because the matter is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

The allegations are documented in a report by an independent commission acting on behalf of WADA (World Anti Doping Agency). The report was released on Monday and you can down load the full report from the website here.

The investigation is into the activities of one country. I’m not going to name the country, although you will probably be well aware of it. The authors of the report are at pains to make clear that the terms of reference for the investigation were limited to one country and that they feel that malpractices are be prevalent in other countries. The inference is that the singling out of one country for investigation may well be politically motivated and the investigating commission sites “Conflicts of interest” within WADA, sponsors of the investigation. A good scientific study would have investigated at least 6 countries, 3 suspect and 3 presumed to be clean. That aside the findings of the investigation are deeply disturbing and include:

– Athletes being told to either dope or be excluded from the national team.
– Athletes being forced to pay a percentage of their winnings in return for having positive doping tests covered up.
– The existence of a shadow doping laboratory for the presumed purpose of screening samples prior to sending – them to the legitimate laboratory.
– The existence of blood transfusion equipment.
– Evidence that athletes were given advance notice of out of competition doping tests.
– Denial of the presence of athletes at a training camp in order to avoid doping tests.
– The destruction of 1400 blood samples in direct violation of a request by the investigating committee that the samples be preserved and sent to another laboratory for examination.
– The use of secret police at drug testing laboratories to intimidate the staff.

Athlete Biological Passport
Doping tests rely not only on absolute concentrations of banned substances but also on abnormalities in the trend for an athlete’s results. This is known as the biological passport. An abnormality may be due to doping but may also be explained by a virus, legal medication or altitude training. It is easy for an athlete to explain a “one off”. However in the course of the investigation it was found that several athletes showed exactly the same blip on the same day, just prior to a major competition, indicating synchronized doping by blood transfusion.

The reaction to the report from the country implicated is predictable. First denial, then attempt to discredit the report and then accuse other countries of the same crime. Finally there is the legitimate claim that that they were unfairly singled out following a documentary broadcast by a TV station based in another country jealous of their success in the London Olympics.

All bad news, but nothing compared with the implication that those at the IAAF entrusted to uphold the rules of the sport actually took bribes to cover up doping. Events held in the UAE, including those organized by running clubs are subject to UAE AF approval and they in turn are subject to IAAF governance. This affects us and who has a right to compete in our events.

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