17 May 2016

IOC retests could ban up to 31 athletes from Rio 2016

Retests carried out on 454 ‘selected’ doping samples from the Beijing 2008 Olympics mean that ‘up to 31 athletes from six sports’ could be banned from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The IOC said that the 454 samples had been selected based on athletes who are likely to compete in Rio. ‘The Executive Board of the IOC today agreed unanimously to initiate proceedings immediately, with the 12 NOCs concerned informed in the coming days’, read an IOC statement. ‘All those athletes infringing anti-doping rules will be banned from competing at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

The retests carried out by the IOC have resulted in a much higher percentage of positives that typically recorded in ordinary doping controls – 6.8% of the 454 samples retested recorded an adverse analytical finding (AAF), compared to the typical return of 1% or under. This appears to give the lie to a theory often raised in anti-doping circles that elite athletes would not dope at a major event where they would be likely to be caught. It also makes the results of a study – which found that as many as 45% of 2,163 elite athletes may have doped in 2011 – seem less outlandish. The authors of that study have accused the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) of trying to block its publication, as well as giving ‘contradictory’ and ‘untrue’ statements to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into doping in athletics.

The IOC said that the results of 250 retests from the London 2012 Olympics would follow shortly, with the same aim of stopping ‘drug cheats coming to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro’. It also said that a wider testing programme involving medalists at Beijing and London would also be undertaken.

The Executive Board of the IOC has also requested that WADA investigate allegations that the Sochi 2014 laboratory was subverted. The IOC has also requested that the Lausanne laboratory retest samples from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. However, as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative earlier today, there are questions as to whether the samples held by the Lausanne laboratory remain credible, as it destroyed 67 samples sent from Moscow in 2012 despite specific instructions from WADA to retain them.

On 16 March, the IOC confirmed that it would retest samples collected at the last two Olympic Games using scientific methods that were not available at the time. The retests were announced by Dr. Richard Budgett, IOC Medical and Scientific Director, who will assist WADA with its investigation into whether the Sochi laboratory was subverted. Budgett was pictured with Professor Arne Ljungqvist, Martial Saugy, Director of the Lausanne laboratory and with Natalia Zhelanova of the Russian Ministry of Sport at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

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