Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The international swimming federation (FINA) has argued that Hiromasa Fujimori recorded an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for methylephedrine at a concentration of 16 micrograms per millilitre, and a typographical error in its Doping Panel Decision meaning that the AAF was reported as 16 picograms per millilitre. However, strangely, the error was repeated in Footnote One of the Original Decision, which outlined that his A sample had recorded a concentration of 17 picograms, and his B sample 16 picograms. This footnote was removed from an amended version of the Decision.
A picogram is one trillionth of a gram, whereas a microgram is one millionth of a gram. Under Section S6 of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List, methylephedrine is only prohibited at a concentration in urine at greater than ten micrograms per millilitre.
‘The unit (picograms/ml) reported in the award does not reflect the level at which the substance was actually detected (micrograms/ml)’, read an email from FINA. ‘The use of an erroneous unit constitutes a purely redactional mistake’. This led The Sports Integrity Initiative to report that Fujimori had not recorded an AAF, which according to the issued Decision and WADA’s rules, he hadn’t.
The apparent ‘redactional mistake’ was repeated in Footnote One of the original Decision. ‘A picogram (pg) is a trillionth (1/1,000,000,000) of a gram’, it is highlighted at the bottom of Page 2 of the Original Decision. ‘Using a non-quantitative method, the laboratory estimated the concentration of the A Sample to be 17 picograms and of the B Sample to be 16 picograms’. Footnote One was removed from the amended version of the Decision (PDF below). FINA said that although an appeal has been filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the level at which methylephedrine was detected is not at issue.
As initially reported, the FINA Doping Panel Decision outlines that Fujimori’s refusal to lie about the source of his AAF could end up costing him his place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The Japanese swimmer refused to say that his AAF may have been caused by a cold medication, which FINA admitted would have been ‘highly likely’ to result in a three to six month ban, due to four previous AAFs for methylephedrine being caused by such medication. As a result of his honesty and because he couldn’t prove the source of the methylephedrine, Fujimori was sanctioned with a two year ban from 1 January 2019.
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