Twenty-eight track and field athletes were suspended on Tuesday by the IAAF after samples from the 2005 and 2007 world championships were retested, though they did not include any British competitors.
Due to a continuing legal process the athletes cannot be revealed but the names – which include half a dozen still competing – are likely to be released in the next few days. None of the sport’s leading athletes are on the list.
It is understood the new testing has focused on those suspected of cheating by using banned anabolic steroids – not blood doping by endurance athletes that has dominated recent headlines.
The International Association of Athletics Federations has come under intense criticism after reports in Germany and Britain claimed illegal drugs such as EPO and banned techniques such as blood spinning were rampant in athletics and the sport’s governing body was not doing enough to stop it.
However since April it has been working behind the scenes with the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Lausanne, to retest samples from the 2005 and 2007 world championships in Helsinki and Osaka using the latest technology, and the laboratory has unearthed 32 “adverse findings” involving 28 athletes.
In a statement the IAAF said: “A large majority of the 28 are retired, some are athletes who have already been sanctioned, and only very few remain active in sport. The IAAF is provisionally suspending them and can confirm none of the athletes concerned will be competing at the world championships in Beijing.”
The IAAF insisted the retesting had “commenced well before” the allegations made by the broadcaster ARD and the Sunday Times after they obtained leaked blood results from an IAAF database, which contains more than 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes. The test scores, which can suggest but do not prove illegal doping, were analysed by Michael Ashenden and Robin Parisotto, experts on doping, who concluded that a third of all medals in the Olympics and world championships endurance events were won by athletes with suspicious blood results.
The IAAF firmly rejected claims it failed to follow up on the suspicious tests and said the latest announcement showed it was committed to the fight against doping. “The IAAF embarked on this long-term storage and retesting strategy in 2005 to ensure clean athletes are ultimately rewarded for their honest efforts in IAAF competitions,” it said. “The IAAF is committed to use every means at its disposal within the world anti-doping code to root out the cheats, however long it takes.”
Two developments helped the testers: the improved scientific methods that allowed them to find previously undetectable substances, and the longer statute of limitations for testing of stored samples, which was recently extended from eight to 10 years.
Martial Saugy, the director of the laboratory where the tests were carried out, said the research that had caught the dopers was cutting edge and showed the IAAF was committed to uncovering cheating.
“The latest scientific breakthroughs in anti-doping technology and analysis have been employed in the reanalysis of these samples to allow us to find previously undetectable substances,” he said. “We are at the cutting edge of the fight against doping. In our 10-year partnership with the IAAF we have been using every scientific advance and legal opportunity at our disposal to catch the cheats.
“The IAAF and the IOC, working in cooperation with the LAD, clearly showed the way 10 years ago and other anti-doping organisations and sport federations, on Wada’s recommendation, are now considering or have started implementing such a retesting policy.”
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