5 July 2022

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ending 1 July 2022

Nine athletes from eight countries, competing in six sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light this week. Five of the Decisions underlined why the criminalisation of doping in sport is vital to ensuring that not just the athlete is punished, but also those who facilitate and enable doping.

In January this year, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) brought its fist charges under the Rochchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) against self-styled therapist Eric Lira. The charge sheet (PDF below) detailed ‘Athlete 1’ and ‘Athlete 2’ as being supplied by Lira. Details in the charge sheet outed ‘Athlete 1’ as Blessing Okagbare, and the Nigerian sprinter was later sanctioned with a ten year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics.

Okagbare’s ban has now been extended to eleven years, after the AIU found her guilty of test evasion and tampering. Okagbare’s results from 31 July 2021 had already been disqualified due to her ten year ban. However as the AIU found her guilty of evading a test on 13 June, her results will now be disqualified from that date. A consequence of this is that the Nigeria women’s 4x100m team will lose its spot at the Oregon 2022 World Athletics Championships, which begin on 15 July. 

This is because Okagbare competed in the women’s 4x100m team at the Nigeria Olympic Trials in Lagos on 19 June, which secured its spot at Oregon 2022. ‘The foregoing exchange between the Athlete and LIRA on or around 13 June 2021 demonstrated that the Athlete knew that a DCO had attempted to locate her for Testing at the Florida Address on 13 June 2021 and that the Athlete knowingly and deliberately took steps to avoid that Testing’, reads the AIU’s Decision. It also clarifies that taking deliberate steps to avoid a test also qualifies for a change of tampering with the doping control process.

A Swiss athlete was provided with HGH & EPO by Eric Lira…

A separate US charge sheet issued by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on 8 March reveals that ‘Athlete 2’ referred to by the DoJ in its charge sheet against Lira is a Swiss sprinter. It outlines that on 14 June 2021, Lira provided Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Erythropoietin (EPO) to ‘a sprinter based in Switzerland’. On 16 August 2021, Lira told the male Swiss athlete that they should blame an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for ‘a particular steroid’ on contaminated beef.

Lira told the Swiss athlete that they should blame their AAF on contaminated beef…

This week, Swiss Sports Integrity announced that Jamaican-born Swiss sprinter, Alex Wilson, has been sanctioned with a four year ban for an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) involving Trenbolone, a steroid. He blamed his AAF on contaminated beef however as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative, this happened at least two weeks before 16 August 2021.

The original DoJ charge sheet mentions that ‘Individual 1’ found doping paraphernalia at the residence of ‘Athlete 2’ in Jacksonville, Florida, after entering at their request on 12 and 13 July 2021, as the athlete was out of the country. Wilson’s World Athletics profile shows that he took part in an event in Switzerland on 29 June, but also in the Georgia Games on 18 July 2021.

Swiss Sports Integrity considers Wilson guilty of ‘intentional’ doping. ‘Since the CAS ruling, the athlete who tested positive has claimed that he was the victim of an act of sabotage’, reads its Statement. ‘However, Swiss Sport Integrity showed that such a scenario could not be credibly proven’. Neither the AIU or Swiss Sports Integrity has confirmed that ‘Athlete 2’ is Wilson.

The Lira case shows how the criminalisation of doping has has brought a supplier of doping products to justice. In addition, the AIU Statement outlines how the additional charges against Okagbare would not have been possible without the FBI’s ability to access her phone records (she had refused to comply with the AIU’s previous investigations into her case).

In contrast, two cases from the UK and Canada illustrate how athlete explanations can be accepted without investigation when dealt with under sporting jurisprudence. UK Rugby League player Jamie Dallimore received a one year reduction to a four year ban for an ADRV involving Clenbuterol, after UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) accepted his explanation that it was caused by a ‘moment of madness’ where he ingested a pill given to him by a friend during a football match.

Canadian weightlifter Zeyad El-Karsh received a one year reduction to a four year ban after accepting an ADRV for LGD-4033 and Tamoxifen. LGD-4033 is an investigational drug that has yet to be approved for use in humans.

Article 10.8.1 of the World Anti-Doping Code (click to open…)

The CCES’s Decision in El-Karsh’s case was just three pages long, and UKAD’s Decision in Dallimore’s case was six pages long. Article 10.8.1, a new Article introduced into the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code, allows anti-doping organisations to close a case without investigating if an athlete accepts an ADRV within 20 days. In both Decisions, there is no sign that UKAD or CCES investigated either athlete’s explanation.

At the recent Play The Game conference, delegates heard how punishing athletes for doping is very convenient for international sporting federations, who have nothing to gain from doping. Athletes who are part of systemic doping often have little choice but to dope. There is no suggestion that either Dallimore or El-Karsh are involved in systemic doping. However it is not hard to see how a sport, club, or State involved in systemic doping might instruct its athletes to accept an ADRV within 20 days, to avoid investigations. By allowing athletes to admit an ADRV without an investigation of their explanation, Article 10.8.1 enables systemic doping to continue.

The AIU also received another case this week thanks to law enforcement. Italy’s national anti-doping prosecutor’s office (PNA) informed the AIU that the Italian Ministry of Health had recorded a positive test against Kenyan Marathon runner, Joel Maina Mwangi. Mwangi told the PNA that he had injected Deca-Durabolin, which was responsible for his Nandrolone AAF. 

The AIU said that it couldn’t accept a two year ban imposed by the PNA, which accepted Mwangi’s explanation, as the Italian Ministry of Health is not a signatory to the Code. However, it notified Mwangi who admitted the ADRV. The AIU then reasoned that as he hadn’t shown the AIU that his AAF was not intentional, he should be subject to a four year ban unless he admitted the ADRV within 20 days under Article 10.8.1, which allows a one year reduction in such circumstances.

Italy’s criminalisation of doping requires investigation of the athlete’s explanation. Article 10.8.1 of the Code allowed the AIU to avoid investigating Mwangi’s explanation.

Action by Europol underlined the importance of law enforcement in investigating allegations of doping. ‘The investigation was led by the French OCLAESP under the supervision of the French Public Prosecutor’s Office in Marseille to look into possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France’, read a Statement. Team Bahrain Victorious confirmed the houses of team members were searched, and that its hotel was searched ahead of the Grand Départ in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

‘The house searches experienced today by members from Team Bahrain Victorious represent a continuation of the investigation process that began during the team’s successful performances at last year’s Tour de France’, read a Statement. ‘Bahrain Victorious were the only team in the Tour de France under investigation during the race last year. At no time, and so far, have the team been informed of the progress, results or received any feedback about the investigation from the Marseilles Prosecutor’s Office. Bahrain Victorious has repeatedly requested access to the file or acquaintance with the state of investigation but without success.

‘Moreover, shortly after the investigation was carried out, the investigators illegally provided information regarding the seized items, on the basis of which an article was published in a professional medical journal. The journal stated that the team did not possess illicit substances. Still, this behaviour of the investigators casts doubt on the investigation’s credibility, given that information about the investigation by the French authorities comes to the media. In contrast, the team does not receive any feedback.’

Also this week, a scandal in Russia. Sergei Lisin (Сергея Лисина), a Russian Master of Sports, athlete advisor and Match TV presenter, was sanctioned with an eight year ban for a ‘repeated violation’ of Article 2.1 of the All Russian Anti-Doping Rules, which covers the roles and responsibilities of those that work in sport, including athletes. It is understood that the former speed skater, who was sanctioned with a two year ban in 2012, will appeal against his new sanction.

Please continue to send any cases we may have missed or suggestions through to our 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

Mohammadhadi Pourhosseini and Sadaf Beiranvand (Iran NADO Statement);

Blessing Okagbare (AIU Statement, Decision, original ban AIU Statement, Decision, and Eric Lira charge sheet);

Zeyad El-Karsh (CCES Statement and Decision);

Sergei Lisin;

Alex Wilson (AIU Statement and background);

Joel Maina Mwangi (AIU Statement and Decision);

Jamie Dallimore (UKAD Statement and Decision);

Stephane Houdet (ITF Statement and Decision);

Europol doping investigation (Europol Statement, Bahrain Victorious Statements on hotel search and team investigation)

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