17 July 2023

Don’t hold your breath: doping allegations in Freediving

• 20 athletes from nine countries, competing in ten sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light during the week ending 14 July 2023.

Most people can hold their breath for somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes. Elite freedivers can extend this to ten minutes and beyond. Such control is useful in freediving, where record depths depend on how long divers descend without oxygen. Unlike in many sports, Beta Blockers are prohibited in free diving due to their ability to prolong apnea (or holding your breath) by reducing heart rate, blood pressure and cardiac output.

On 4 July, a luggage search was conducted on three Croatian athletes ahead of the Vertical Blue 2023 Freediving competition. Four Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) were found in the luggage of two athletes scheduled to compete, who discussed doping with the third athlete in a recording (below) made by the competition organisers. All three athletes have been banned from the competition for life.

The Statements from Vertical Blue and the athletes…

Two of the athletes, Vitomir Maričić and Petar Klovar, published a joint statement alleging that the accusations against them are false. The Statements from the competition organisers and the athletes can be read on the right.

Vertical Blue is an annual competition organised at Dean’s Hole in The Bahamas by William Trubridge, who has set a number of Freediving records. Last year, Klovar announced his intention to break the world record, following a number of deep dives. At a news conference, the three athletes alleged that Trubridge had a conflict of interest as both a competitor and competition organiser.

Freediver Mateusz Malina has raised questions about the rapid performance improvements of Maričić and Klovar…

However in an extraordinary 58 page document, Freediver Mateusz Malina outlined his views that use of performance enhancing substances in Freediving may be widespread. This included questions about apneic improvements by Maričić and Klovar. 

Two international bodies govern Freediving – the international association for the development of apnea (AIPA) and the world underwater federation (CMAS). CMAS has confirmed that it is investigating.

In athletics, Nzubechi Grace Nwokocha’s results at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games have been annulled, after the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) refused to accept the Nigerian sprinter’s contention that she wasn’t at fault for her AAF, which she alleged was due to drinking from a teammate’s water bottle. The Decision means that England will be awarded the 4x100m relay Gold, Jamaica the Silver and Australia the Bronze.

In Canada, two American Footballers were sanctioned with 12 year bans for two anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) involving Lingradol. Both athletes blamed a supplement called Plantman, which doesn’t feature Lingdraol on its ingredients, but does feature on the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) High Risk List. Both athletes, who are understood to be brothers, compete for the McGill Redbirds College football team. Neither the Statement or the Decision mentioned if investigations are ongoing into their claims about supplement use.

Please continue to send any cases we may have missed or suggestions through to the editor by clicking here. Also, if you’re an athlete, national anti-doping organisation (NADO) or other Results Management Authority and you’d like us to cover a case that you’re involved with, please get in touch! Also – a reminder. The SII Anti-Doping Monitor only features confirmed AAFs (‘positive tests’) or confirmed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs).

Decision links

Kevin Sanda (AFLD Decision);

Hannah Wairimu Mwangi, Valentine Gesare Mokaya, Evangeline Makena Kathenya, Meghan David Yamo, Cynthia Kendi (ADAK List of Provisional Suspensions);

Navid Zanganeh (CCES Statement & Decision);

Vitomir Maričić, Petar Klovar & unnamed athlete (Vertical Blue Statement & YouTube Video, athletes Statement);

Costa Papanikolaou, Dimitrios Papanikolaou (CCES Statement; Costa Decision & Dimitrios Decision);

Toccata Murphy (USADA Statement & AAA Decision);

Chad Olsen (USADA Statement);

Luca Cretti (NADO Italia Statement);

Gianpietro D’Antuoni (NADO Italia Statement);

Nick Morris (Speedway Control Bureau Statement);

Rodrigo Moledo (Internacional club Statement);

Nzubechi Grace Nwokocha (CGF Statement & Decision);

Christian Antonio Arena (NADO Italia Statement)

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