Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Konrad Bukowiecki (pictured), U20 world record holder in the shot put, has tested positive for higenamine, an ingredient commonly contained in ‘fat burner’ food supplements used by athletes. Bukowiecki has denied knowingly taking any prohibited substances and plans to contest the charge.
The Polish athletics federation (PZLA) confirmed that it had received a letter from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) concerning the adverse analytical finding (AAF). ‘This substance is found in the urine sample taken from the player taken during the course of the U20 World Cup, which took place in July in Bydgoszcz’, read a statement. ‘The PZLA has already requested that Konrad Bukowiecki respond to the allegation of violation of the anti-doping rules. The player denied using any illegal measures and pledged full cooperation as soon as possible in order to clarify this case, which is unpleasant for him.’
On Facebook, Bukowiecki reiterated that he had not intended to cheat. ‘Following information which appeared today in the media, I deny that I ever accepted any prohibited substances’, read a 9 September post. ‘I grew up with the spirit of sports competition and to me, it would be a disgrace and a denial of everything I believe in, if I, as an athlete, accepted any illegal assistance in any way…Of course I’ll take advantage of the opportunity to re-examine the contested samples. I’ll do whatever it takes to fully explain the situation and clear my name. I repeat, I’ve never taken any banned substances and I am ready to prove it in every possible way, even using a lie detector.’
The PZLA is examining the possibility that Bukowiecki’s AAF was a result of the use of dietary supplements approved by the manager of its medical team. Higenamine is a chemical compound found in plants and Dr. Jaroslaw Krzywańskiego told the PZLA that as it is not a medical substance, there is a high probability that it may be a component in dietary supplements or nutrients, but not listed on the label. “This is the kind of situation we are probably dealing with”, he said in the PZLA statement. “If the B sample confirms the presence of this substance in the body, the most likely explanation seems to be that it got into his body as a component of dietary supplements or nutrients that our athletes received”.
Last month, the IAAF accepted race walker Liu Hong’s explanation that her positive test for higenamine was caused by a medication she had been taking for tonsillitis, issuing her with a one-month ban. As higenamine is a plant compound, it is understood to often be present in traditional Chinese medicines.
In July, UEFA was forced to drop all charges against Mamadou Sakho, after the Liverpool player was able to successfully argue that there was an absence of significant negligence on his part, as higenamine is not specifically named on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List. Section S3 of the Prohibited List bans all Beta-2 agonists, which is the class of substances higenamine belongs to.
A similar argument could be made for mildronate, the major brand name for meldonium. Mildronate does not feature on the List despite its active ingredient, meldonium, being added to the Prohibited List on 1 January 2016. Today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against a two-year ban after a positive test for meldonium will be issued in the first week of October.
• UPDATE (22 February 2017): It is understood from local reports that Bukowiecki received a reprimand from the Polish Anti-Doping Agency (PANDA) in December last year. PANDA does not appear to publish anti-doping decisions on its internet site.
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