New doping crisis to 'shake the foundation' of athletics

New doping crisis to 'shake the foundation' of athletics
By Tim Witcher
2 August 2015

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Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - The World Anti-Doping Agency said Sunday it was "very alarmed" by new accusations of mass doping that have plunged athletics into a deep crisis.

WADA president Craig Reedie said the new claims would "shake the foundation" of athletes trying to stay clean. German television channel ARD and Britain's Sunday Times newspaper said they had been leaked a database belonging to athletics governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) with details of 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 competitors which revealed "extraordinary" levels of doping.

Reedie said at an International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting that the numbers involved and the extent of the use of blood doping had shocked him. "These are wild allegations, wide allegations," he told reporters.

Russian and Kenyan athletes featured strongly in the programme aired just three weeks before the start of the world championships in Beijing. "WADA is very disturbed by these new allegations that have been raised by ARD which will, once again, shake the foundation of clean athletes worldwide," Reedie said. The allegations would be quickly passed to an independent commission looking into allegations aired by ARD in December of widespread doping in Russian athletics.

Doping 'nonsense'

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko called the new allegations "nonsense" that were part of a power struggle within the IAAF. ARD and the Sunday Times said the data was leaked by a "whistleblower" and that they had asked Australian doping experts Michael Ashenden and Robin Parisotto to examine the results. The experts said that 800 athletes in disciplines from 800m to the marathon registered values considered suspicious or highly suspicious.

They also said:

-- At least a third of the medal-winners at world championships and Olympics between 2001 and 2012 had given suspicious tests. "In one event the entire podium was comprised of athletes, who in my opinion had most probably doped at some point in their career," Ashenden told the ARD programme.

-- More than 80 percent of Russia's medals were won by athletes with suspicious tests, while Kenya had 18 medals won by suspicious athletes.

-- The tests showed an increasing use of blood transfusions and hard to detect EPO micro-doses to boost red cell count and performances.

The IAAF said only that it was aware of the media reports and stressed that the data was "obtained without consent." The governing body said it would "reserve the right to take any follow up action necessary to protect the rights of the IAAF and its athletes."

But the IAAF faced criticism from within athletics. European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen called on the global body "to clarify the situation and step up its already leading efforts to combat the scourge of doping." Mutko linked the allegations to an IAAF presidential election this month before the world championships start.

Top athletes reacted with concern. Britain's Olympic champion heptathlete Jessic Ennis-Hill said all the information had to be revealed no matter how damaging it was. "I very much hope both organisations can respond to the latest allegations quickly so athletes and fans alike can carry on with confidence believing that progress is being made in tackling doping in our sport.”

Longer inquiry

"These allegations require swift and close scrutiny to determine whether there have in fact been breaches under the World Anti-Doping Code and, if so, what actions are required to be taken by WADA and/or other bodies," said Reedie. The independent commission is led by Richard Pound, an IOC member and the first president of WADA. Pound's commission is looking into claims of doping by Russian athletes, encouraged by coaches and doctors, which were aired by ARD in December.

Reedie told reporters in Kuala Lumpur he had hoped to get Pound's report as early as September but that would have to be put back because of the new accusations. "It will take a little bit longer but I would rather they look into it and get the answers," he said. Reedie said he had been particularly concerned by "the spread of the allegations" and "the blood issues".

The programme put the spotlight on Russian and Kenyan athletes alleged to have used banned techniques. But British media said one top athlete -- but not Mo Farah who has recently come under the microscope over allegations made of his coach Alberto Salazar -- was among 12 who had been found on the database with suspicious test results.

The Kenyan federation reacted with fury slamming the claims which they said were 'libellous' and threatening legal action to boot. "The Federation always welcomes any information which would help fight the vice of doping," Athletics Kenya said in a statement. "But we cannot fail to point out that the documentary is an attempt to smear our runners with unwarranted suspicion as they prepare to undertake duty for their country in Beijing. On claims of financial impropriety on our top leadership, past and present, we have instructed our legal team to study the documentary with a view of bringing legal action against the TV Station and the author," it added.

Source: Yahoo! AFP