Suspicious blood test results of long distance runners from several countries have been leaked by a whistleblower from the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”). The shocking reports published last week in Great Britain’s Sunday Times and by German broadcaster ARD caused turmoil across the globe for both marathoners and the organizations that oversee marathons. The news organizations reported that, according to the data released, one-third of Olympic and world championship middle and long distance running medals were won by athletes whose blood tests suggest the runners may have doped to improve their performance. The reports did not name the athletes involved and race organizers indicate they were never informed of the blood test results.
With respect to the London Marathon, it was reported that seven of the 24 winners of the race (men and women alike) between 2001 and 2012 recorded suspicious blood scores. The Sunday Times also reported that many of these runners also won medals in Berlin, Boston, New York, Chicago and Tokyo marathons.
In response to the reports, London Marathon chief executive Nick Bitel released a statement Sunday that, “We continue to be at the forefront of anti-doping measures for marathon runners as we are determined to make marathon running a safe haven from doping but we cannot do it all on our own and rely heavily on the IAAF. We are therefore very concerned by the allegations . . . and we will be discussing the implications of the allegations with the IAAF.” Bitel continued that, “The IAAF needs to do more to stop people from starting who have blood values which are out of the normal range. But we never get these results even though we are paying tens of thousands to get athletes tested - only after the IAAF finally take action are we made aware, but by then it is too late.”
Bitel further stated the following: the organization (the London Marathon) pays for testing to occur at the race every single year, however it is not entity responsible for actually administering the tests- that is done by UK Anti-Doping; the organization has spent and continues to spend tens of thousands of dollars on both testing athletes and developing anti-doping measures; in 1999, the organization was the first to request blood testing but it took until 2002 for the IAAF to get its act together and lastly; the organization has a zero tolerance policy towards doping and athletes who register positive results (resulting in a penalty longer than three months) and are forever thereafter banned from the London Marathon.
Some serious penalties have resulted from the publication of the suspicious blood tests. On Friday, Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhova, who won the London Marathon in 2010 and won second place in 2011, has been stripped of all her medals earned since 2009. Not only that, but London Marathon officials plan to take court action to recover $775,000 in prizes and appearance money paid to the Russian in 2010 and 2011.
The IAAF is taking a different stance regarding the doping allegations. An IAAF spokesman stated that the published reports “contain a number of seriously incorrect assertions, and that “[a]ll the marathon organisers had a thorough explanation of what the ABP (Athlete Biological Passport) was when the IAAF engaged in joint blood testing with them. They accepted from day one not to receive the results as they are not competent to act upon the values and the concept of the ABP is based on a series of values, not just a single value. In four years of co-operation they have never asked to see any results and they do not pay for all the testing.”
In the midst of the scandal, eight British athletes, including two-time Olympic champion Mo Farah, have chosen to publish their blood test results to prove they are not dopers. According to the Sunday Times, 20 of Farah’s blood tests from June 2005 to May 2012, recorded in the IAAF database, were normal. Farah stated that, “[She has] always said that [she is] happy to do what it takes to prove [she is] a clean athlete.”