Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Jamaican athlete Nesta Carter’s appeal against the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to disqualify the Jamaican 4x100m team from the Beijing 2008 Olympics, in which they took a Gold medal, will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) today. The IOC disqualified the Jamaican 4x100m team – which included Usain Bolt, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell – in a 25 January decision after reanalysis of Carter’s sample returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for methylhexaneamine.
Carter does not accept the AAF. He argues that he had been subject to several urine and blood tests during the Beijing 2008 Olympics and none of them had returned an AAF. ‘He alleged that he had never ingested or taken a substance known as or containing methylhexaneamine’, reads the IOC decision (PDF below).
Carter argued that the source of the AAF could have been the supplements he indicated on the 2008 Doping Control Form (DCF): Cell Tech and Nitro Tech. Cell Tech doesn’t feature methylhexaneamine in its list of ingredients; nor does Nitro Tech.
‘The Disciplinary Commission further notes that the Athlete did not provide any real evidence that the supplements he declared on his DCF might have been the likely source’, reads the IOC decision, taken eight years after Carter’s 2008 test. ‘On the contrary, the fact that the Athlete used such supplements regularly and that this did not lead to other problems, supports the likelihood that the source of the prohibited substance was not the supplements mentioned by the Athlete’.
The IOC decision confirms that the Beijing Laboratory did not detect methylhexaneamine in 2008 because it had not been searching for it. ‘Given that this substance was not expressly mentioned in the Prohibited List and had not started to attract attention at that time, it could be assumed that this result could be the consequence of the fact that the Beijing Laboratory had not included it in its analytical menu’, reads the decision, adding that this had been confirmed following an email exchange with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on 17 November 2016. ‘If that was the case, then the Beijing Laboratory simply had not detected a substance for which it had not been searching’.
However the IOC’s position was that the presence of any Prohibited Substance is covered by reanalysis, irrespective of whether that substance could have been detected in the initial analysis. This is confirmed by Article 3.2 of WADA’s International Standard for Laboratories, which defines further analysis programmes as ‘Any analysis for any substance or method, except where an Athlete has previously been notified of an asserted anti-doping rule violation based on an Adverse Analytical Finding for that substance or method’.
Carter’s case is likely to raise interesting questions regarding reanalysis of past samples and athlete culpability for obscure substances. Methylhexaneamine did not feature on WADA’s 2008 Prohibited List, when Carter’s samples was taken. It was not specifically named until the 2010 Prohibited List was issued, two years after Carter’s sample was taken.
This does not mean that methylhexaneamine was not prohibited in 2008. It was, but was encompassed within a broad ‘catch-all’ statement concerning Stimulants (section S6). This didn’t name the substance specifically, but included it under ‘tuaminoheptane and other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s)’.
Back in 2008, Carter would need to have been a chemist to know that methylhexaneamine was prohibited. Supplement manufacturers may not have known it was prohibited back in 2008. There are about 80 other compounds similar in structure to tuaminoheptane and methylhexaneamine, and innumerable others that could have a ‘similar biological effect(s)’ to tuaminoheptane.
It is also worth considering that laboratory detection methods are now much more advanced than they were in 2008. The Beijing Laboratory may not have been able to detect methylhexaneamine at the time, even if it was looking for it.
As such, the CAS’s approach to this case will be interesting to watch. Anti-doping is perhaps the only area where a person can be prosecuted as guilty unless they can prove they are innocent. How could Carter have proved that he was innocent, given the circumstances? There is no doubt that he has committed an AAF, but should circumstance be a factor?
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