Blutdoping-Experte Michael Ashenden © NDR Foto: Screenshot

Doping

Has the IAAF been contradicted by its own experts?

von Hajo Seppelt, ARD Anti-Doping Desk

The Australian blood doping expert Michael Ashenden says that the IAAF - the athletics world governing body - could have banned athletes before 2009 on the basis of blood test results collected in an internal data base.

The body says that this wasn't allowable before the introduction of biological passports for athletes in 2009. Ashenden rejects that contention. "It didn’t have to wait for the introduction of the passport to sanction athletes with abnormal values," Ashenden told ARD.

The Australian scientist cited the case brought by the IAAF itself against Greek steeplechase athlete Eirini Kokkinariou before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2012.

The IAAF banned Kokkinariou for four years for blood doping - a sanction upheld by the court. In rendering its verdict in November 2012, the CAS noted that the IAAF used also blood test results from before 2009 as evidence. A trio of IAAF experts found that Kokkinariou’s blood values between 2006 and 2009 revealed the "use of a banned substance and/or banned methods". The CAS accepted their argument.

"As they proved with the case with Miss Kokkinariou, data base results as far back as 2006 are reliable indications of blood manipulation," Ashenden said. "For the IAAF to claim just three years after winning their case that the data base can’t be relied upon is just jaw-dropping hypocrisy."

The IAAF didn't respond to ARD's request for clarification on this matter. In the past the body has repeatedly states that "blood samples taken before the introduction of the biological passport programme could not be used as evidence of doping".

At the start of August the World Anti-Doping Agency subscribed to this view, stating that data collected before 2009 "could not possibly be considered doping, legally or otherwise."

Against the backdrop of these statements, the controversial case of German speed skater Claudia Pechstein could once again come into focus. The International Skating Union (ISU) and CAS justified their decisions to ban multiple Olympic gold medallist Pechstein in 2009 with suspicious blood values recorded prior to that year. Ashenden sees that as a "further proof that the IAAF could have used the screening results in their database to commence proceedings against athletes".

Conversely, if WADA sticks to the view that pre-2009 blood values are not reliable indicators of doping, the case of Pechstein could take another turn six years after it was rolled out. The speed skater could cite WADA's legal opinion to mount another challenge against verdicts of 2009.

ARD and London's Sunday Times newspaper had commissioned earlier this year Ashenden and his colleague Robin Parisotto to analyse more than 12,000 blood test results contained within a confidential IAAF data base. They had concluded that every third medal winner at athletics world championships between 2001 and 2012 had suspicious test results.

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