IAAF fights back: their full response to the doping allegations
The IAAF takes the allegations published by The Sunday Times and ARD very seriously and has investigated them thoroughly.
• 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.
• Professor Giuseppe d’Onofrio, one of the world’s leading haematologists working as an expert in the field of the Athlete Biological Passport, commented: “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 data on which the reports were based was not ‘secret’ – the IAAF published a detailed analysis of this data more than four years ago.
• The Sunday Times’ story is based on the allegation that 6 specific athletes recorded suspicious results which we did not follow up. In fact, as the newspaper was told before publication, each test led to intensive follow up, as a result of which the 6 athletes were subsequently caught cheating and banned.
• The IAAF wants to stamp out all doping in sport and welcomes greater public debate. There is no perfect system for catching drug cheats, but the IAAF has been at the forefront of drug testing for many years. Under its pioneering 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 Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) and cannot therefore be used as proof of doping. The IAAF quite rightly operates within an anti-doping framework, provided by WADA, where suspicion alone does not equal proof of doping. Any reporting or insinuation of such is wholly irresponsible on behalf of these media outlets and 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. The IAAF condemns in the strongest possible terms the distribution, sharing, and publication of private and confidential medical data that was obtained from the IAAF without consent. The IAAF retains the right to take any action necessary to protect the rights of the IAAF and its athletes.
In their reporting, the ARD and The Sunday Times made allegations against the IAAF regarding the level of blood doping in the sport, and accused the sport of doing nothing to act upon this data. 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.
The 2011 IAAF study, which indicates a similar overall level of suspected doping as has been recently reported, found that there are clearly some nations who account for the largest percentage of suspicious blood values. The IAAF does not shy away from this fact. The IAAF also notes that those countries who are reported by the ARD and The Sunday Times as having among the highest percentage of abnormal samples are the very same countries who currently lack a history of implementing a strong, robust and Code compliant national anti-doping program backed with government support. WADA is responsible for national compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code, and the IAAF remains available as always to provide assistance wherever possible to ensure these nations are implementing effective anti-doping controls. In that regard, the IAAF is surprised by WADA’s comments, particularly given how closely it has worked with WADA over the entire period to try to advance the fight against blood doping, notably in assisting in the development and implementation of the Athlete Biological Passport.
The IAAF is responsible for working with its Member Federations to ensure they are also complying with the Code and its requirements, and acknowledges that there is work still do in some nations. The IAAF is however very encouraged that those countries that are actively implementing serious and Code complaint anti-doping programmes have a much smaller level of suspected doping.
Any reporting by the ARD and The Sunday Times that the IAAF was negligent in addressing or following up the suspicious profiles is simply false, disappointing, and misinformed journalism. To the contrary, in an attempt to catch and sanction the cheats in our sport, the IAAF has used every means available to it within the anti-doping framework it operates in. We believe that our targeted out-of-competition (OOC) testing programme during this time was the equal of any other sport or anti-doping organisation around the world. WADA was well aware and well informed of our testing programme at the time, and never once questioned its competence or appropriateness.
It should be again made clear that the IAAF is only able to use the tests and analysis which are validated and made available to it through WADA. At the time in question, the ABP was not in existence. The IAAF, therefore, systematically compiled a database of blood profiles from international athletes, and then used this database to guide its targeted, no-advance-notice, out-of-competition testing programme. The 2015 World Anti-Doping Code stresses the importance of an intelligence, risk based approach to testing. This is exactly what the IAAF was already implementing ten years earlier.
Below is a summary of how the IAAF has implemented blood profiling:
• The IAAF used the blood profiling database as a means of targeting repeated intelligence led, no-advance-notice, OOC testing on the most suspicious athletes. Athletes were targeted individually, with testing timed to correlate with the most likely periods of doping as indicated by their individual profile and competition schedule
• In addition, the IAAF doping control program deliberately prioritised and targeted athletes from countries where we believe there was insufficient quality OOC testing occurring domestically.
• The IAAF has immediately implemented and used each and every validated detection method made available to it by WADA
• The IAAF stored and then re-analysed samples when new detection methods became available (CERA and other forms of EPO)
• The IAAF was one of the first sports (or anti-doping organisations) in the world to adopt the ABP. The database of profiles currently being reported allowed the IAAF to immediately target its blood passport program to the correct athletes, and the results are clear – the IAAF has sanctioned more athletes through the ABP than all other sports combined.
• Robin Parisotto, the expert relied on by The Sunday Times, has previously confirmed in an interview with Cycling Tips published in 2014: “…with the biological passport. It is not a one-off test, where you may simply test positive and then the case goes ahead. In this case you have to accumulate a great amount of detail. You have to cast your eye over perhaps years of data to see if there is some sort of pattern that is suspicious.”
While the anti-doping community as a whole has acknowledged that the tests currently available will not catch all cheats, the IAAF strongly refutes any notion that it has not used every possible tool to target suspected dopers. We would be happy for our targeted testing programme to be compared to that of any other International Sporting Federation.
In order to protect clean athletes, the IAAF always welcomes any information which can lead to the opening of proceedings against an athlete or support personnel for a doping rule violation. In this regard we will study the other aspects of the ARD TV programme to see if it is able to assist. The IAAF also continues to cooperate with and assist WADA in its ongoing investigations.
• The IAAF has conducted more than 19,000 blood screening tests since 2001, which is the most comprehensive and universal blood testing programme implemented among sports federations and national anti-doping agencies, including 8000 tests in the period 2001 and 2009.
• The IAAF followed up vigorously and consistently on all blood screening results considered as atypical by its experts in accordance with the procedures and protocols then applicable. In particular more than 8,800 urine EPO tests were conducted in-competition and out-of-competition in that period, notably as a follow-up to atypical blood test results.
• 141 athletes tested positive for EPO since the first case at the IAAF World Championships in Edmonton in 2001.
• Since 2009, the IAAF has collected more than 11,000 blood samples for ABP purposes on more than 5,000 athletes across all disciplines of athletics, male and female elite athletes and junior and senior athletes and collected more than 7,400 urine EPO tests in the same period.
• All 11,000 blood tests results were systematically recorded on ADAMS (the online platform for proposed by WADA for the administration of anti-doping programmes) and visible to WADA at all times in full transparency.
• Since 2011, more than 150 ABP profiles were referred to the IAAF Expert Panel and more are to be submitted in the next few weeks.
• Since 2011, 63 doping cases have been pursued by the IAAF on the basis of ABP profiles considered as atypical by the independent expert panel. 39 athletes have already received a sanction, 24 are under proceedings and new proceedings will be initiated shortly.
• The IAAF had to appeal 15 ABP cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) because the athlete had either been exonerated by his National Federation or national anti-doping agency because they failed to impose the correct consequences under IAAF Rules.
• The IAAF had an anti-doping budget of $2,030,000 in 2014 and $2,030,000 in 2015.
• The IAAF Medical and Anti-Doping Department has 10 full-time personnel.