News 17th March 2017

Belgian Olympic Committee clears Van Landeghem of doping – 29 years later

The Belgian Olympic Committee (COIB) has cleared Ria Van Landeghem of doping – 29 years after she was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) following a positive test for an anabolic steroid at the Seoul 1988 Olympics. Reanalysis of Van Landeghem’s case found that her B sample did not match the results of her A sample, meaning that she should never have been issued with an ADRV. Van Landeghem has always argued that the test results were false.

In December 1988, Van Landeghem was acquitted by the Appeals Commission of the Flemish Athletics League due to procedural flaws, namely infringement of the rights of the defence. In Spring 1989, the acquittal was recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) but not by the COIB, who refused to select her for marathon events over the next two years, despite her placement in the world’s top ten.

The COIB said that it and Van Landeghem had independently submitted the case dosser to a team of international experts, led by Dr. Peter Van Eenoo of the DoCoLab in Ghent, which is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and will be analysing samples taken from athletes at the 2017 IAAF World Championships. ‘The acquittal of Ria Van Landeghem by the Flemish League was not merely based on procedural flaws’, read an emailed COIB statement. ‘The experts found that the doping analysis did not meet a certain number of minimum quality guarantees that were applied in 1988 in anti-doping laboratories and concluded that the sample in question could never have been declared positive’.

The analysis showed that Van Landeghem’s B sample was not positive, and consequently she should never have been issued with an ADRV. It also raised questions about whether the A sample should have been declared positive, given that tests were not carried out to exclude the possibility that instruments were contaminated. ‘This suspension must be considered unjustified, given the acquittal by the Flemish Athletics League and the IAAF’, read the COIB’s statement. ‘The COIB wishes to apologize to Ria Van Landeghem in this regard’.

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