18 August 2015

Turkish athlete stripped of Olympic gold and banned for eight years

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ratified a settlement agreement between the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the Turkish Athletic Federation (TAF) and the Turkish middle distance runner Asli Cakir-Alptekin resulting in an eight-year ban for the athlete. In a media release issued yesterday, the CAS announced that Cakir-Alptekin had been found to have committed a second anti-doping rule violation following abnormal values found in blood samples collected from the athlete. All competitive results obtained by Cakir-Alptekin from 29 July 2010 onwards have been disqualified, including the Olympic gold medal won in London in 2012 and the European Championships gold also won in 2012.

Cakir-Alptekin was found to have committed a first anti-doping rule violation in 2004 when the presence of an anabolic steroid was detected in a urine sample collected from her at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Italy, for which she received a two-year period of ineligibility, which she duly served. Blood samples then collected between July 2010 and October 2012 were used to create an Athlete Biological Passport profile.

Three independent experts unanimously agreed that several of the values in the biological passport were abnormal, that they were characteristic of and highly likely to have been caused by some form of blood manipulation, and that the explanations offered for those values were unsubstantiated and/or scientifically unsound. In January 2013 the IAAF charged the athlete with an anti-doping rule violation on the basis of this biological passport, and provisionally suspended Cakir-Alptekin pending determination of the charge.

Cakir-Alptekin’s case was subsequently heard by the TAF Disciplinary Board which ruled in December 2013 that no penalty should be imposed on her, dismissing the charge based on its view that the evidence for the charge was not sufficient. In February 2014 the IAAF, in disagreeing with TAF’s exoneration of Cakir-Alptekin, appealed to the CAS to have the TAF decision set aside.

Over the last year all aforementioned parties negotiated and eventually concluded a settlement agreement before a hearing was needed to be held at the CAS. The settlement agreement has now been ratified in a Consent Arbitral Award issued by the CAS.

The settlement comes a week after another Turkish athlete, Elvan Abeylegesse, released a statement denying doping allegations following an adverse finding of a re-analysis of a 2007 sample, as reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative.

Furthermore on 11 August, the IAAF also confirmed that re-analysis of urine samples taken at the 2005 Helsinki and 2007 Osaka World Championships had confirmed 28 athletes with 32 adverse findings. The IAAF has subsequently said that disciplinary action had begun against the 28 athletes concerned, who consequently cannot be named.

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