Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) emails illegally accessed by Fancy Bears have indicated that some of track & field’s biggest stars were flagged as ‘likely doping’ under the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) programme. The cache of documentation also includes details of anti-doping cases and criminal proceedings against other athletes; complaints regarding the anti-doping process from athletes, as well as confidential medical records.
“We are looking into this”, said an IAAF spokesperson. “It does appear to be information from the cyber-attack which the IAAF announced on 3 April 2017 had taken place”. An April IAAF statement said that the attack was detected by Context Information Security (CIS), who were conducting a technical investigation of IAAF systems.
The cache of information indicated that a number of high-profile athletes, such as Galen Rupp and Mo Farah, had been flagged as ‘likely doping’ under the ABP system. Annex L of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) International Standard for Testing and Investigations – also reproduced in the ABP Operating Guidelines (PDF below) – indicates that such a flag is still a long way from a doping positive. As such, The Sports Integrity Initiative has chosen not to publish the full list of athletes.
A finding of ‘likely doping’ means that an athlete’s pathology has been flagged as suspicious by an ABP Management Unit (ABPMU) expert. If that happens, the athlete’s pathology is reviewed by three ABPMU experts, including the expert that conducted the initial review. If the three experts agree that the pathology indicates ‘likely doping’, then an ABP Documentation Package is created. An Adverse Passport Funding (APF) is then reported to the anti-doping organisation concerned, if the experts still agree that the pathology indicates ‘likely doping’ after reviewing the Documentation Package.
If an APF is agreed, the athlete concerned is notified, and can suggest explanations. If, after reviewing those explanations, the experts agree maintain that the pathology indicates ‘likely doping’, then an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) is issued. A subsequent chart revealed that Farah was ‘now flagged as “Normal” with the last sample’, but Rupp’s ABP profile was still marked as high priority.
Farah’s spokesperson told the BBC that he had never been notified of any suspicious ABP findings. Coupled with the fact that Farah’s pathology was later flagged as ‘normal’, this would appear to indicate that the three ABPMU experts did not agree that it was suspicious. “We have never been informed of any of Mo’s test results being outside of the legal parameters”, the spokesperson reportedly said. “Nor has Mo ever been contacted by the IAAF about any individual result […] any suggestion of misconduct is entirely false and seriously misleading.”
It is also difficult to draw any conclusions from the fact that Rupp’s ABP pathology is marked as high priority in the illegally-accessed emails. The nature of the leak means that we do not know if there were any follow-up emails published. It could also be that analysis of Rupp’s pathology under the ABP is still in progress.
As such, it is difficult to reconcile the leaked emails with Fancy Bears’ assertion that Alberto Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown ‘practiced illegal schemes’ at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP). Both Farah and Rupp are coached by Salazar, who runs the NOP.
The Fancy Bears leak also contains a number of emails relating to the Alex Schwazer case, which The Sports Integrity Initiative has covered in detail before. Fancy Bears allege that its leaked emails relating to this case reveal ‘government involvement in the international investigation process in order to disguise anti-doping rule violations’ allegedly committed by the Italian race-walker.
This can be partially expected, as doping is a criminal offence in Italy. Schwazer’s sample was moved from Italy to Germany to be analysed by the IAAF, and Schwazer initially alleged that its chain of custody was untraceable. Documentation leaked by Fancy Bears shows that the IAAF considered filing legal opposition to the re-transfer of the sample back to prosecutors in Italy, as the sample had been opened.
Although the full CAS award (PDF below) found that ‘it is impossible to conclude whether or not the ingestion of the prohibited substance occurred intentionally or not’, Schwazer ‘could not demonstrate by a balance of probability as required by Rule 33.2 IAAF Competition Rules that the prohibited substance unintentionally entered his body’. As the ADRV represented a second offence, he was sanctioned with an eight-year ban.
It is difficult to draw any conclusions from the Fancy Bears emails relating to the Schwazer case. That the IAAF sought to oppose the transfer of an opened sample back to Italy does not indicate any impropriety. That the IAAF communicated with Italian prosecutors also does not suggest any impropriety, as doping is a criminal offence in Italy. Given that the CAS award found that it was impossible to prove whether Schwazer’s ingestion of a prohibited substance was intentional, it remains to be seen whether he will face prosecution under Italian criminal law.
In June last year, the IAAF confirmed that it had been investigating athletics coach, Jama Aden, since 2013. Emails illegally accessed by Fancy Bears highlighted some of the details of that investigation, as well as the athletes and others involved. They revealed Spanish prosecutors’ charge sheet against Aden, who faces prosecution in Spain for trafficking doping substances. If the documents are accurate, Aden was found with a huge cache of doping substances at a hotel in Sabadell, Spain.
The substances allegedly include 314 vials and bottles, comprising recombinant erythropoietin (EPO), methylprednisolone, cernevit, magnesium sulphate, calf blood extract, and more. The documentation also alleges that a number of doping syringes were retrieved from the hotel room of Moroccan Ouarid Mounir and Qatari Musaeb Abdelrahman Balla, both of whom are also understood to face criminal prosecution in Spain.
On 1 May, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced that Molly Beckwith-Ludlow had accepted a public warning after she returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for clomiphene. The statement revealed that the hormonal and metabolic modulator had been prescribed due to her intention to start a family. The IAAF emails illegally accessed by Fancy Bears reveal that Beckwith-Ludlow was refused a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) by the IAAF following her AAF.
‘Her investigation files demonstrate the discriminating and cynical nature of the current anti-doping control system’, state Fancy Bears. ‘On the one hand, the system patronises some athletes by means of therapeutic use exemptions, on the other it applies a severe punishment to the expectant mother’.
It is difficult to see how this follows. Beckwith-Ludlow did not receive a ban and was free to return to competition. It could be argued that more damage has been done by Fancy Bears, which included her full medical records in its leak.
The Fancy Bears cache of illegally accessed emails also include information alleging malpractice provided to the IAAF by athletes and athlete support personnel. The Sports Integrity Initiative has decided against publishing any information relating to this, as to do so may jeopardise ongoing investigations. In an email sent to Athletics Kenya in February, the IAAF warns that Doping Control Offers (DCOs) from International Doping Tests & Management (IDTM) have had difficulty accessing Kenyan athletes who have been training at police training camps. However, the IAAF gives just two examples of situations where this difficulty has occurred.
As has been previously highlighted, information published by Fancy Bears must be taken with a pinch of salt. Although it is widely assumed that the group is Russian, this has never been confirmed, despite the best efforts of sporting authorities to identify the perpetrators. However, as we have attempted to highlight above, there is little doubt that there is an agenda behind the leaks. They nearly always involve athletes and organisations from established ‘western’ countries, and allege that anti-doping authorities are guilty of double standards.
Also, it is important to stress that it appears that the leak originates from a hack into IAAF systems back in April. As such, it is impossible to ascertain if there were follow-ups to any of the emails and documentation leaked, which may have resolved the issues highlighted.
On the face of it, no ‘smoking gun’ appears to have been revealed by this latest leak, which also represents an egregious breach of athlete privacy. However, some of the issues highlighted above – especially those relating to the Schwazer case – do warrant further investigation.
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