News 16 May 2022

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ending 13 May 2022

Fifteen athletes from eight countries, competing in 12 sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light this week. The headline-grabbing news was that Danilo Hondo, who confessed to blood doping in a May 2019 ARD interview, was sanctioned with an eight year ban, five and a half years of which was suspended due to his cooperation in helping anti-doping and criminal authorities in the Operation Aderlass investigation into the blood doping network orchestrated by Dr. Mark Schmidt.

The Sports Integrity Initiative has identified 22 athletes from eight countries, competing in three sports (cycling, cross country skiing, and triathlon) who have been sanctioned for their involvement in Operation Aderlass to date (see table below). In January last year, Dr. Schmidt was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison by a court in Munich.

The Operation Aderlass investigation by Austrian and German police began in February 2019 with the arrest of nine people at the Nordic Skiing World Championships in Seefeld, Austria. It is understood that Dr. Schmidt also received a three year ban from practising medicine. The supply of doping products to athletes is a criminal offence in Germany.

A case involving an Indian Judoka illustrated why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) considered it so important to win the Sun Yang case, where sample containers were smashed after Doping Control Officials (DCOs) failed to present identification considered satisfactory to the Chinese swimmer. Nilesh Balhara, who won Silver at the 2019 Commonwealth Championships in Walsall, refused to submit to an anti-doping test arguing that DCOs sent by India’s national anti-doping agency (NADA India) did not have ID cards. 

‘The Athlete submits that no authorisation letter or identity proof linking the specific sample collection personnel to the Athlete was provided in compliance with procedure of WADA ISTI [International Standard for Testing and Investigations]’, reads the Decision. ‘The athlete has relied [on] a judgment Sun Yang vs. WADA (CAS 2019/6148 dated 22.06.2021’.

The DCOs admitted that they weren’t wearing their ID cards as they’d expired. The Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel found this to be irrelevant, as they’d been given the authority to test Balhara and presented these documents to him. The fact that one of the DCOs immediately reported to her senior that her car had been stopped and she’d been offered a bribe – against Balhara’s failure to approach NADA India about the lack of ID cards until the hearing – suggested that he’d intentionally avoided the test, it reasoned.

‘On careful perusal of all the videos repeatedly by the Panel members, none of us could hear the Athlete asking the DCOs for proof of their IDs’, reads the Decision. ‘Rather, the Athlete can be clearly seen and heard trying to evade the signing of the form as well as giving a sample for the dope test’. As such, Balhara was sanctioned with a four year ban expiring on 8 April 2025. 

His excuse could perhaps be considered more creative than that of Getaye Gelaw. The Ethiopian distance runner argued that following a September 2021 injury, colleagues had advised him to use painkillers which he later found to contain erythropoietin (EPO). 

‘The Athlete confirmed that he had not injected himself on those occasions, but that his ‘colleagues’ had injected him directly into his injured knee and that he did not know when or from where the substance he was injected with had been purchased’, reads the Decision. ‘Following a request for additional information by the AIU on 17 March 2022, including that the Athlete confirm the identities of those individuals that had advised him to take painkillers and of those who had injected him, the Athlete responded on 24 March 2022 explaining that he had been in Turkey from August 2021 until the beginning of October 2021 and that this is where he had been injured during training and been injected. He explained that athletes were present, but that he didn’t ‘have a long time relationship with [the] athletes’. The Athlete also stated that those who had injected him were not athletes, but persons closely associated with them, and that he did not ‘know them in detail’.’

As such, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics didn’t accept Gelaw’s explanation. He was sanctioned with a six year ban until 4 February 2028.

However three other athletes have perhaps been unlucky. US para Shooter Tricia Downing received a two year ban expiring on 26 July 2023, despite the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) accepting that she’d been prescribed hormonal cream as part of menopause treatment. USADA also denied her a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the cream.

‘In the Arbitrator’s view, Respondent ignored her primary and personal responsibility to ensure that no prohibited substances entered her body’, reads the American Arbitration Association (AAA) Decision. ‘Given Respondent’s experience and knowledge, she should have questioned what was in the cream and should have known that resources were available to her to find out if the cream contained a prohibited substance. Even though she had plenty of time to time to check on the ingredients in the cream and she had extensive anti-doping education, Respondent failed to take the most basic steps in ascertaining what was in the cream.’ 

Indian wrestler Mr. Shubham was prescribed ‘Lasix’ for a urinary tract infection, which led to an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for furosemide on 31 August 2021. He also applied for a retroactive TUE certified by the prescribing Doctor. It was rejected on the basis that the medical treatment was not appropriate to treat his symptoms. The Panel found that although Shubham didn’t intentionally take furosemide, he acted negligently by failing to inform his doctor that he was an athlete, which may have led to him being offered an alternative course of treatment. As such, he was sanctioned with a five month ban which expired on Saturday.

Erin Blanchfield will also have an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) against her name for failing to obtain an advance TUE for a prescribed medication. The UFC fighter was given a Public Warning over her use of spironolactone, a prescription medication, which she used under the care of a dermatologist for a diagnosed medical condition. A Public Warning is considered an ADRV, despite no ban being issued.

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).


Statement on Rakesh Pandey (Decision), Jaspreet Singh (Decision), Atul Kumar (Decision), Nilesh Balhara (Decision), and Mr. Shubham (Decision);

Tricia Downing (Statement and Decision);

Alexander Pisarev;

Edoardo Placidi; 

Nicola Amadori;

Getaye Fisseha Gelaw (Statement and Decision);

Danilo Hondo;

Abdul Kamara;

Erin Blanchfield;

Jessica Pietrzyk (Statement and Decision);

Iskandar Tursunbaev

You may also like...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This