15 June 2020

AIU: provisional suspension not mandatory under Code

A provisional suspension for an athlete that returns an adverse analytical finding (AAF – positive test) for a ‘specified substance’ that features on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List is not mandatory. Last week, The Sports Integrity Initiative reported that Salwa Eid Naser was not provisionally suspended because she hadn’t returned an AAF and hadn’t been charged with an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). Provisional suspensions for ‘whereabouts’ failures are not compulsory under the World Anti-Doping Code.

This led to questions as to why the AIU didn’t provisionally suspend race walker Caio Bonfim, who returned an AAF for Bumetanide – a diuretic considered a ‘specified substance’ – from two tests on 28 and 30 May 2017. The Brazilian was allowed to continue competing and won a Bronze medal in the 20km race walk at the London 2017 World Athletics Championships in August. A decision on his case wasn’t issued until 27 February 2018, when he received a six month sanction from 1 March 2018, allowing him to keep his Bronze.

‘A specified substance does not require a mandatory provisional suspension under the Code’, wrote an AIU spokesperson in an email. ‘An AAF for a specified substance results in a discretionary provisional suspension (see Article 7.9.2 of the Code). That, coupled with the fact that the Athlete presented evidence to demonstrate that the AAFs were the result of a contaminated product, is why Bonfim was not provisionally suspended.’

Article 7.9.1 of the Code reads: ‘When an Adverse Analytical Finding is received for a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method, other than a specified substance, a Provisional Suspension shall be imposed promptly’. Article 7.9.2 specifies that where an AAF involves a ‘specified substance’, a provisional suspension is optional. 

To clarify, WADA’s Prohibited List outlines that ‘specified substances’ include:

• Beta-2 Agonists;
• Certain Hormonal & Metabolic modulators;
• Certain stimulants.

More serious doping substances – such as anabolic agents (stanozolol) or peptide hormones (EPO) are considered non-specified. This means that an AAF involving one of them automatically results in a provisional suspension. Bumetanide, the diuretic involved in Bomfin’s case, is considered a specified substance. Therefore, if an athlete returns an AAF for the diuretic, a provisional suspension is discretionary.

Bonfim’s case took so long to resolve because it involved a contaminated food supplement that resulted in his hospitalisation. ‘The amount of the diuretic introduced into his system caused damage to his health, causing him to pass out in a competition held in Peru last year, leading to a hospital emergency’, reads a 21 July 2018 statement from his lawyers (below), referring to the Lima 2017 Pan American Games. ‘Investigations carried out by the defence, medical and laboratory evidence produced in Brazil and abroad, as well as other evidence collected in judicial procedures demonstrated unequivocally that the athlete was a victim of contamination. The defence also proved that between February 2016 and May 2017, Caio underwent at least 12 urine doping tests and three biological passport evaluations, all with absolutely normal results, excluding – together with other expert reports – the possibility of diuretic use to mask other substances.’


As well as being used as a masking agent, diuretics force the excretion of water, which the above statement argues would be a serious disadvantage in race walking. It is understood that Bonfim filed a criminal complaint against the pharmacy involved in prescribing him with the supplement, which further delayed the case.

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