News 9th April 2021

French runner claims EPO ban is due to abuse by stepfather

Ophélie Claude-Boxberger has been sanctioned with a backdated two year ban for an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) involving erythropoietin (EPO), after the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) apparently accepted that she was injected by her stepfather without her knowledge. The steeplechase athlete, who will miss the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, was provisionally suspended following a 18 September 2019 adverse analytical finding (AAF) and can resume competition from 5 November this year.

Claude-Boxberger’s stepfather and former Coach is Alain Flaccus. Following her November 2019 AAF, French police visited the headquarters of the French athletics federation (FFA) and investigated three people connected with her internship at the Font-Romeu resort in the Pyrenees, where she was preparing for the Doha 2019 World Championships.  

In a statement posted on Instagram, Claude-Boxberger alleges that Flaccus injected her with EPO whilst she was sleeping off the effects of alcohol and anti-anxiety medication. In October last year, she also filed a complaint against Flaccus for aggravated rape between 2002 and 2007, reports AFP. He will also face charges of poisoning at the Montbéliard Criminal Court on 6 May 2021, following a complaint filed by Claude-Boxberger.

‘Taking into account the various elements that I had communicated during the hearing and in particular the unhealthy and deleterious character that Mr. Flaccus had towards me in particular during my adolescence, but also during our stay in Font-Romeu where he had confessed to having injected EPO without my knowledge out of jealousy, I hoped for an absence of sanction’, wrote the Steeplechaser in two posts on Instagram (see below). ‘There are, however, rules governing the penalties for the type of substance found in my urine and even despite my good faith and my collaboration throughout these 18 months, it was normal for the AFLD to still impose a penalty of half of the penalty incurred, in particular in view of the fact that an athlete must be vigilant of all substances entering their body. So I accept this as the price, which is certainly dear to pay for not having better surrounded myself, and I realised that when you are under intense psychological pressure, alcohol and anxiolytics [anti-anxiety drugs] are not a solution, as they do not allow you to remain lucid enough.’

At the time, Claude-Boxberger was in a relationship with Jean-Michel Serra, former Doctor to the French athletics team. Serra was dismissed by the FFA in December 2019, after criticising the FFA’s handling of Claude-Boxberger’s case in an email.

Claude-Boxberger’s Instagram posts suggest that Flaccus’s motivation for injecting her with EPO may have been jealously of her relationship with Serra. However, what hasn’t been clarified is where or how Flaccus got hold of EPO in a small mountain commune close to the Spanish border. The Sports Integrity Initiative has asked the AFLD to provide its Decision for clarification purposes.

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