The trouble with Ostarine: Jimmy Wallhead’s
16th March 2018
Sixteen athletes from nine countries, competing in eight sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light this week. Cases involved an Ethiopian marathon runner charged with use of Erythropoietin (EPO); four Pakistani weightlifters who refused tests, as well as an additional two who returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for a prohibited substance at the World Championships; a UK boxer sanctioned with a four year ban after failing to prove that an AAF for Ostarine was caused by a contaminated supplement; and the Conseil d’Etat’s upholding of an appeal to double an athlete’s two year sanction after the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) refused to believe that she had been injected with EPO by her Coach whilst sleeping.
Getaye Gelaw finished second in the Adana Half Marathon in January this year, recording a time of 1:01:56. However, the Ethiopian was charged with use of EPO in February, the Athletics Integrity Unit’s (AIU) list of provisional suspensions reveals. No further details are currently available.
Four Pakistani weightlifters refused tests in Pakistan on 10 November, whilst another two returned AAFs on the same date at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The IWF and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that the four lifers were targeted following a joint investigation based on intelligence.
Under Article 12 of the IWF Anti-Doping Rules (see right), the IWF can suspend or fine a member federation if three or more athletes or officials from that federation are found to have committed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) during a calendar year. As such the Pakistan Weightlifting Federation, which falls under the jurisdiction of the country’s Olympic Committee, faces a potential suspension from international competition for a year.
Former Commonwealth Super Lightweight Champion boxer Philip Bowes has become the latest in a long line of athletes to blame supplements for an AAF involving Ostarine. Bowes reported a concentration of Ostarine in urine of just 0.5ng/mL from a 2 September 2020 test following his defeat by Akeem Ennis-Brown. His B sample reported just 0.3ng/mL.
Bowes denied knowingly taking Ostarine and blamed supplements he’d used, which he paid to have tested in France. None of these tested positive.
Analysis of his toenail clippings did not support the scenario of repetitive administration of Ostarine, which would be necessary to benefit from its typical use as part of a ‘bulking cycle’. UKAD argued against the use of the nail clippings as evidence, arguing that there was no chain of custody documentation. A Sport Resolutions Panel Decision sanctioned Bowes with a four year ban, which he then appealed.
The Appeal Decision heard evidence from Healthshop UK Limited, which had sponsored Bowes since 2017. UKAD paid for somebody to examine a list of supplements provided by Healthshop UK Limited, and found that some of them contained Ostarine. However, UKAD maintained that Bowes had either deliberately taken Ostarine or had ‘acted recklessly’ by not fully checking the supplement labels.
The Decision recognised the difficulty faced by Bowes in that ‘he is trying to establish that he acted unintentionally […] but cannot assert positively that he knows the source of contamination – that is, he cannot identify the means whereby the Prohibited Substance must have got into his system – albeit he suggests it is probable that it must have come from a contaminated supplement from his sponsor/supplements supplier’.
It accepted evidence from Bowes’s defence that a ‘dose smaller than a grain of salt’ could have been responsible for his AAF. It also accepted that the toenail clippings could prove no long term use of Ostarine. However, Neither of these conclusions absolved him of responsibility. An AAF is an AAF, and the onus is on the athlete to prove that they are not at fault for any amount of a prohibited substance in their sample.
The Decision also recognised that ‘the Rules do not impose […] an absolute requirement that an Athlete who seeks to prove absence of intention must prove the source of the Prohibited Substance’. However, it found that Bowes’s inconsistency on exactly what supplements he had taken in the lead up to the fight meant that he could not argue, on balance of probability, that he had not intentionally or recklessly ingested Ostarine.
It therefore dismissed Bowes’s appeal and upheld the four year ban. ‘Even good people make mistakes’, concluded the Sport Resolutions panel.
The AFLD initially accepted evidence that Ophélie Claude-Boxberger had been injected with EPO as a malevolent act by her stepfather, against whom she had filed an allegation of aggravated rape. However, an expert report commissioned by the AFLD suggested several injections of EPO and as such, it appealed to the Conseil d’Etat extend her sanction to eight years due to an additional ADRV of falsification.
‘The Conseil d’Etat now considers that neither the two-year duration adopted by the Sanctions Committee, nor the eight-year duration requested by the Presidency of the agency, are justified by the Sports Code’, reads a Statement. ‘This is why it increases the sanction imposed on the athlete to four years’.
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).
Talib Talha, Abubakar Ghani, Muhammad Sharjeel Butt, Ghulam Mustafa, Abdur Rehman, and Farhan Amjad (Statement);
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