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WADA to urgently probe doping allegations in athletics

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said its Independent Commission will “urgently launch” an investigation into the latest doping allegations to hit athletics, adding that it “deplores” the manner in which the accusations have emerged.

The allegations stem from the television documentary entitled ‘Doping – Top Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics’, which was released by German public-service broadcaster ARD on August 1. The documentary alleges that ARD and UK newspaper The Sunday Times obtained a leaked database, belonging to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which contained more than 12,000 blood tests from around 5,000 athletes in the years 2001 to 2012.

“WADA is committed to protecting the confidentiality of athletes; and, therefore, has asked its Independent Commission to commence its investigation with urgency,” WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said today (Friday).  “We are confident that the IAAF, which has formally agreed to full cooperation with the Commission with respect to its inquiries, is equally committed.

“WADA deplores the manner in which this data was obtained, leaked to the media and analysed. To suggest or imply doping with respect to any athlete whose data is contained within the database is, at the very least, irresponsible and potentially libellous. I ask that any athlete, or anti-doping organisation, concerned that their rights are being eroded or inappropriately challenged refer those concerns to the Commission, which intends to commence its work immediately.”

A previous documentary released by ARD in December led to the formation of the Independent Commission, chaired by WADA’s founding president, Dick Pound. The role of the Commission is to investigate the validity of allegations of doping practices; corrupt practices around sample collection and results management; and, other ineffective administration of anti-doping processes that implicate Russia, the IAAF, athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and other members of athletes’ entourages; as well as, the accredited laboratory based in Moscow and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).

WADA’s latest statement comes just days after it sought to reassure athletes in the wake of the weekend’s revelations by stating that the leaked database cited in the accusations was not from its Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS).

The Sunday Times and ARD used two of who they claim to be the world's “foremost anti-doping experts”, scientists Robin Parisotto and Michael Ashenden, to review the data. According to the experts, the database reveals that a third of medals, including 55 golds, in endurance events at the Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes who have recorded suspicious tests. It is claimed none of these athletes have been stripped of their medals.

More than 800 athletes – one in seven of those named in the files – are said to have recorded blood tests described by one of the experts as “highly suggestive of doping or at the very least abnormal”. In some finals, every athlete in the three medal positions is said to have recorded a suspicious blood test, while Russia has been described as “the blood testing epicentre of the world” with more than 80 per cent of the country’s medals won by suspicious athletes, while Kenya had 18 medals won by suspicious athletes.

WADA director general David Howman added today: “A portion of the data within the database pre-dates the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), which was introduced in 2009. This data could not possibly be considered doping, legally or otherwise. In addition, atypical blood data, which may be within this database from 2009 – 2012, is not necessarily indicative of doping.

“The strength of the ABP is that it monitors selected biological variables over time, via the blood, which indirectly reveal the effects of doping. WADA’s rules governing the ABP are designed to ensure a complete and fair review of ABP profiles and require the unanimous opinion of three experts.”

The Independent Commission is scheduled to deliver its report to Reedie by the end of the year, unless the WADA president deems it appropriate to extend the mandate.