Features 28 February 2023

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ended 24 February 2023

Twenty athletes from ten countries, competing in ten sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light during the week ended 24 February. Cases involved a tennis player sanctioned with a three year ban after mistakenly being administered the wrong medication during hospital treatment for Covid-19; a three year ban for an athlete who took pills given to her by her Coach which he later admitted contained prohibited substances (and a lifetime ban for the Coach); and bans issued to six Kazakh weightlifters due to tests carried out in February/March last year.

These cases were overshadowed by developments involving two high profile athletes. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) registered appeals in the case of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, and the World Boxing Council (WBC) cleared Conor Benn to compete, concluding that an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for Clomiphene was caused by consumption of eggs.

Kamila Valieva

A timeline of the Kamila Valieva case (click to open…)

Kamila Valieva (Камила Валиева) returned an AAF for Trimetazidine on 25 December 2021, but the results of her sample analysis were not reported to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) until 7 February 2022, when she helped Russia win team Gold at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. RUSADA provisionally suspended Valieva on 8 February, however this provisional suspension was lifted on 9 February by RUSADA’s Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee (DADC), a Decision that was supported by the CAS Ad-Hoc Division during the Beijing 2022 Games.

A full Decision on whether Valieva had committed an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was keenly awaited. On 14 December last year, the DADC reached a Decision that Valieva bore no fault or negligence, and only her results from 25 December 2021 should be annulled. This was almost a year after Valieva’s initial AAF and over a month after a WADA deadline of 4 November. The full Decision, with grounds, was only recently notified to the International Skating Union (ISU), RUSADA and WADA. It is this Decision that the ISU, RUSADA and WADA have now appealed to CAS.

The ISU is seeking a period of ineligibility to be determined by CAS; RUSADA is seeking ‘appropriate consequences (which may include or be limited to a reprimand)’; and WADA is seeking a four year ban. Valieva was 15 at the time of her AAF, so would be considered a ‘protected person’ under the World Anti-Doping Code.

Article 20.5.12 mandates that anti-doping organisations must investigate all athlete support personnel connected to a protected person accused of an ADRV. RUSADA announced that it was doing this in February 2022. 

Punishment for those responsible for doping a protected person are severe. ‘An Article 2.7 or Article 2.8 violation [Trafficking or Administration] involving a Protected Person shall be considered a particularly serious violation and, if committed by Athlete Support Personnel for violations other than for Specified Substances, shall result in lifetime ineligibility for Athlete Support Personnel’, reads Article 10.3.3 of the Code.

Russia’s Federal and Medical Biological Agency (FMBA) is responsible for preparing Russian athletes for international competition. A team of 20 FMBA Doctors travelled to Beijing to assist the national team (see below). That team was headed by Andrey Zholinskiy (Андрей Жолинский), the Director of the FMBA and a member of the Scientific Expert Council of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). He is considered to be Chief Physician to the Russian Olympic team. 

Andrey Zholinskiy is a Director of the FMBA & Chief Physician to the Russian Olympic team…

The CAS Ad Hoc Decision outlines that on 12 February, the ROC sent a question to the World Anti-Doping Code drafting team about the lack of clarity about how provisional suspensions apply to ‘protected persons’. Zholinskiy was also the ‘medical expert’ called by Valieva’s defence. He explained that Trimetazidine is prohibited for use by minors and put forward contamination via heart medication used by Valieva’s grandfather as a possibility. However, that theory has been questioned. 

It also appears that the FMBA may have given supplements contaminated with Trimetazidine to Russian athletes in the past. In 2018, Nadezhda Sergeeva (Надежда Сергеева) came to a settlement agreement with the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) over an ADRV involving Trimetazidine at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The Settlement Agreement – a copy of which is held by The Sports Integrity Initiative – reveals that the source of Sergeeva’s AAF was a contaminated supplement. 

RUSADA’s DADC contains members of the FMBA, which is in charge of preparing Russian athletes for international competition (click to open)…

The DADC, which lifted Valieva’s provisional suspension and found that she bore no fault or negligence for her ADRV is described as a body that it independent from RUSADA. Vladislav Nikolaevich Karkishchenko (Каркищенко Владислав Николаевич), a member of the FMBA, is one of six members of the DADC (see right). 

In October last year, the FMBA held a meeting with the State Duma on Physical Culture and Sports about the legal regulations for medical and biological support for the Russian national team, where two legislative Bills were discussed. ‘The first is a government Bill submitted to the State Duma, which is aimed at combating doping and enshrines the term “specialist in sports medicine” in the legislation’, read a Statement. ‘The document proposes to introduce liability for medical workers who have committed violations of anti-doping laws. The second legislative initiative empowers the FMBA of Russia with powers, including issues of medical rehabilitation and recovery of athletes.’

This Bill has been recently approved. A 22 February Statement confirms that the FMBA will have direct powers to prepare the Russian team for international competition.

In summary, the World Anti-Doping Code mandates that RUSADA, which is partly financed by the Russian State, must investigate whether a State body (the FMBA) is responsible for Valieva’s AAF. In addition, the body responsible for her preparations for Beijing 2022 (the FMBA) also sits on the ‘independent’ commission responsible for determining sanctions against her. Given these conflicts of interest, it is perhaps not surprising that it took RUSADA so long to provide its DADC Decision.

The CAS Ad Hoc Decision mentions that Valieva declared L-Carnitine, Supradyn and Hypoxen, none of which contain Trimetazidine, on her Doping Control Form (DCF). Who gave the 15 year old those substances to take and why?

Valieva’s mother said she was taking supplements to treat heart problems (click to open)…

Valieva’s mother stated that Valieva was taking hypoxen for heart problems (see right). Is there medical evidence for this?

Questions have also been asked about Valieva’s coaching team. Philip Shvetsky (Филипп Шветский) is a Doctor with the Russian figure skating team, as confirmed in the Russian figure skating federation (FSR) magazine and in the below Instagram post. He has been put forward as a potential culprit for Valieva’s AAF by the Russian media. 

It is alleged that he was involved with use of prohibited infusions by the Russian rowing team that led to its disqualification from the 2007 World Championships. His Instagram page has been cited as proof that he has worked with Valieva. However, his Instagram profile was only launched late last year and appears to have been replaced with a new profile.

The Head of the Medical Department at the FSR is Alexander Ozerov (Александр Озеров), a Doctor who also works for the FMBA. He refused to discuss Valieva’s case following questions from Sport Express in February, and has not commented on the case since.

Conor Benn

A Study commissioned by WADA found that eating just two eggs from hens treated with Clomiphene could result in an AAF (click to open)…

Do eggs contain Clomiphene? The female fertility drug, which is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), is used in the poultry industry to increase egg production. WADA commissioned a Study on this in 2019, which found that eating just two eggs from hens treated with Clomiphene would result in an athlete reporting an AAF.

Why is this relevant? Because the WBC this week cleared Conor Benn to return to competition, finding that his consumption of eggs constituted a ‘reasonable explanation’ for his AAF for Clomiphene. 

Benn’s 25 July 2022 AAF derailed a 8 October fight against Chris Eubank Jr, after the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) withdrew its sanctioning of the bout. The BBBoC has adopted UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) Anti-Doping Rules (ADR) so although Benn’s AAF was the result of a Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) test processed by the WBC, both of which are not signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code, his AAF was still considered a potential breach of the UKAD ADR requiring a provisional suspension.

Under the ADR, UKAD is required to notify an Athlete of any potential ADRV and any provisional suspension (see right). Although UKAD do not comment on ongoing cases, it appears that it was not aware of Benn’s AAF until the fight’s promoters announced it. 

“UKAD notes the reporting of a failed VADA test by the boxer Conor Benn with concern”, said its CEO Jane Rumble in a Statement issued on 6 October, after she had just returned from an Anti-Doping Science Symposium in the USA. “UKAD acts on all reports of doping and always encourages anyone with information on suspected doping activity to come forward and share that with us.” It is understood that UKAD’s investigations are ongoing.

Other cases

Daria Mishina (Дарья Мишина) was sanctioned with a three year ban by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), despite her argument that she was given medication containing testosterone designated for her hospital neighbour while receiving treatment for Covid-19. The retired Russian tennis player escaped a four year ban by accepting the charge and consequences within 20 days of being charged. 

On the basis of evidence she provided in support of her charge, the ITF also charged her with receiving an intravenous infusion in excess of the 100mL over 12 hours permitted under the World Anti-Doping Code. ‘The ITF does not have to prove how the substance got into the Player’s system or that the Player took the substance intentionally (or even knowingly)’, reads the ITF’s defence of its Decision. ‘While the Player asserts that the violation was inadvertent and unintentional, the ITF does not accept that she has rebutted the presumption of intentional use of exogenous testosterone’.

Danah Hussein was sanctioned with a three year ban after taking pills half an hour before a 100m race that her Coach removed from a vitamin C box, telling her that they would help her combat menstrual cramps. The Coach later admitted that the pills contained Stanazolol and Clenbuterol, and was sanctioned with a life ban.

‘The Coach confirmed that he was responsible for the Adverse Analytical Finding and that he had taken the opportunity of the Athlete experiencing a painful medical condition to deliberately give her two types of pills (which he maintained he did not know were Prohibited Substances) to ensure that the Athlete obtained a favourable result and to enhance his profile as a coach’, reads the Decision. ‘He had been advised by a friend of the benefits of using stanozolol and clenbuterol in combination to enhance performance/weight loss, and that he purchased those substances on that advice’.

It is unclear if taking both substances half an hour before a race would have any effect, given that that they are usually taken as part of a long term cycle to lose weight and build muscle. Iraqi Coach Karok Salih Mohammed admitted the ADRV and accepted the consequences two days after being charged, negating the need for a full hearing.

Finally, the Weightlifting Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan (WFRK) announced that six weightlifters had been sanctioned with anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) as a result of out of competition tests carried out from 9 February to 2 March last year. 

“The results will not have any consequences for the Federation or other members of the national team”, said WFRK General Secretary Aldiyar Nuralinov (Алдияр Нұралинов) in a Statement. Under Article 12.3.2 of the IWF Anti-Doping Rules, the International Weightlifting Federation can sanction a member federation if three or more ADRVs are discovered by an organisation other than the member federation over a 12 month period. 

The rule is designed to ensure that IWF member federations police anti-doping effectively. Since the six ADRVs were as a result of tests commissioned by the WFRK, then Article 12.3.2 will not apply. 

Please continue to send any cases we may have missed or suggestions through to the editor by clicking here. Also, if you’re an athlete, national anti-doping organisation (NADO) or other Results Management Authority and you’d like us to cover a case that you’re involved with, please get in touch! Also – a reminder. The SII Anti-Doping Monitor only features confirmed AAFs (‘positive tests’) or confirmed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs).

Decision links

Mike Denayer (ITIA Statement);

José Sanchez (AIU List of First Instance Decisions, full Decision);

Syed Mojtaba Shojaei (Iran NADO Statement);

Callum Marriott (UKAD Statement, full Decision);

Anna Vozakova (FIVB Statement);

Sydney Dorcil (ITIA Statement);

Daria Mishina (ITF Statement, full Decision);

Danah Hussein (AIU List of First Instance Decisions, full Decision);

Karok Salih Mohammed (AIU List of First Instance Decisions, full Decision);

Carlos do Carmo Mota (UFC/USADA Statement);

Conor Benn (WBC Statement);

Auelkhanov Abylai, Son Igor, Yulia Potasova, Chalkarova Rufina, Alexey Drozdov, Makrushin Matvei (WFRK Statement);

Junior Laloifi (UKAD Statement);

Keiser Witte (USADA Statement)

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