Features 11th October 2021

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ending 8 October

The reason that The Sports Integrity Initiative’s Anti-Doping Monitor focuses on athletes affiliated to sporting federations is fairness. We have attempted to prevent the appearance that high rates of adverse analytical findings (AAFs – or ‘positive tests’) or anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) in countries that have criminalised doping suggests that country has a doping problem.

In countries where doping in sport is not considered a criminal offence, national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) work with sporting organisations in order to test their athletes, and sanction those that commit an ADRV. However, in countries where doping in sport is considered a criminal offence, NADOs must often also pursue amateur athletes and gym users. 

Because the police are required to investigate criminal offences, such countries typically report higher rates of AAFs and ADRVs. In counties where doping isn’t a criminal offence, the police are more inclined to do what they consider to be their job. Unless illegal drugs are involved, they often don’t have the appetite to investigate.

However, sometimes the most interesting doping stories involve people that, on the face of it, appear unconnected to sport. For instance, an 18 year ban is an extreme sanction in any jurisdiction – even in Italy, where doping is a criminal offence and its anti-doping organisation (NADO Italia) has a history of issuing lengthly sanctions.

In 2019, Police in Sicily arrested 12 people suspected of being part of an international ring involved in trafficking anabolic steroids. One of these was Andrea Roca, who this week was sanctioned with an 18 year ban expiring on 4 October 2039. 

One anabolic steroid naturally produced by the human body is testosterone. The reason it is so effective as a doping agent is because the body is unable to distinguish between testosterone that is endogenously produced (internal) testosterone and that which is exogenously produced (external). The human physiology can utilise both.

Also this week, NADO Italia provisionally suspended an amateur cyclist who had thanked another amateur cyclist for helping him win the Sticciano to Sticciano race on 11 August. Piero Rinaldini had trained with Luca Staccioli for the race, and returned an AAF at the Trofeo Paesetto on 18 August. His training partner, Luca Staccioli, was sanctioned with a three year ban earlier this month. 

Both athletes returned AAFs for testosterone. It clearly didn’t take long for NADO Italia to put two and two together, and connect Rinaldini with his training partner, Staccioli. 

The above examples are designed to illustrate the benefit of criminalising the supply of doping products to athletes. Italy had already taken down the international doping ring that Andrea Roca was involved with, in an operation involving over 200 police. It now can go back to the police and ask them to investigate how these two amateur cyclists got hold of testosterone. Another anti-doping ring may be discovered.

However, it is only natural that the media and public will focus on the big, elite names. This week, Nesta Carter was provisionally suspended after retuning an AAF for an unnamed substance. The Jamaican sprinter, who retired earlier this year, will face a disciplinary hearing on 14 October. 

Blessing Okagbare was charged with three ADRVs. The Nigerian sprinter was charged in relation to an AAF for human growth hormone (HGH) from a 19 July out of competition test in Slovakia; an AAF for erythropoietin (EPO) from a 29 July out of competition test in Nigeria; and for refusal to cooperate with the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics. 

It is important to state that neither athlete has been declared guilty, and their cases have not been heard. But if Carter or Okagbare are found to be guilty, we may never discover the source of their AAF. This is because in anti-doping jurisprudence, an athlete is considered guilty unless they can prove the source of their AAF. Anti-doping organisations are not required to investigate how an athlete came to test positive. They are there to sanction them.

Unlike in Italy, where police would be required to investigate how Carter or Okagbare got hold of substances that are prohibited in sport, the supply of doping substances is not a criminal offence in either Jamaica or Nigeria. It is probable that the case would end with the conviction of Carter or Okagbare for any ADRV. If they were provided with prohibited substances by a third party, that party could continue to operate.

Please continue to send any 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!

Decision links

Nesta Carter (details here)
Manuela Rinaldi; Francesco Colacino; and Piero Rinaldini  (details here)
Blessing Okagbare
Sergey Bondarenko; Marchela Guidu; Beslan Gordogozhev; Lyubov Lyutova; and Yuliya Dovzhenko (details here)
Recreational athlete (Switzerland)

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