17th December 2019

Laboratory mistake raises question mark over Fujimori case

A mistake by the Beijing Laboratory has led the international swimming federation to withdraw a doping case against a Dutch swimmer, raising a question mark over whether it made a mistake in FINA’s case against Hiromasa Fujimori. FINA notified Kira Toussaint about an adverse analytical finding (AAF) after a 2 November 2018 sample taken at the Swimming World Cup in Beijing indicated the presence of Tulobuterol, a prohibited Beta-2 Agonist. The athlete argued that the Wellbutrin medication she used contained Buproprion, which is similar in chemical structure to Tulobuterol.

FINA asked the Laboratory to confirm the methods it used to detect Tulobuterol, as well as the detection limit. ‘By correspondence dated 11 March 2019, FINA informed the FINA Doping Control Panel that the Laboratory in Beijing had notified FINA that the reported adverse analytical finding for Tulobuterol in this matter was incorrect and the result was updated in ADAMS [Anti-Doping Administration and Management System]’, reads the Decision (PDF below). ‘WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] was subsequently contacted by FINA and confirmed that the new Laboratory reports from the Beijing Laboratory were correct. As a result, FINA withdrew its case against the Athlete from the FINA Doping Panel as there was no proof of an anti-doping rule violation.’

Fujimori’s sample was taken on 14 December 2018 at the FINA Short Course World Swimming Championships in Hangzhou China, where it returned an AAF for methylephedrine on 16 January following analysis by the same Beijing Laboratory. FINA insists that a ‘redactional mistake’ led the FINA Doping Panel to report the concentration of methylephedrine in his sample at 16 picograms per millilitre, rather than 16 micrograms per millilitre.

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. 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.  

The reason that the concentration of methylephedrine is relevant in Fujimori’s case is that under Section S6 of WADA’s Prohibited List, methylephedrine is only prohibited at a concentration in urine at greater than ten micrograms per millilitre. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram, whereas a microgram is one millionth of a gram. If Fujimori’s sample did report methylephedrine at a concentration of 16 or 17 picograms per millilitre, then it should never have been asserted as an AAF.

The Sports Integrity Initiative has repeatedly asked for those involved in Fujimori’s case to provide the Laboratory reports used to assert an AAF against him. It has yet to receive any response.

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