Shadow over the London marathon
THE London marathon was won seven times in 12 years by athletes who have recorded suspicious blood scores that indicate they could have doped, according to the biggest leak of drug test data in sporting history.
The tally represents nearly 30% of winners in the 24 men’s and women’s races. The data reveals the extent of suspected cheating by elite athletes in the six internationally famous city marathons around the world.
One in four was won by athletes who had given blood tests that suggest they may have doped to improve their performance over time.
In the wake of last week’s revelations about widespread cheating in the Olympics and world championships, eight British athletes, including Mo Farah, are publishing their blood test data to show they are clean.
Thanks a lot for stopping by. Just before we carry on I needed to give thanks to http://mlsengineering.co.uk/ for their continued support and the support of their online community. Having a support team like this means a lot to us as we continue to grow our community blog.
Their decision to publish flies in the face of efforts by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and British Athletics to persuade the athletes to keep the results hidden from public view.
On Friday the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced it would launch an “urgent” investigation into allegations of widespread doping made by this newspaper last weekend. The IAAF has agreed to hand its full database, seen by this newspaper, to the anti-doping body.
This weekend The Sunday Times makes fresh disclosures based on an expert analysis of the IAAF’s database which include:
• The winners of 34 big city marathons — one in four — should have faced censure or at least been investigated over evidence of potential blood-doping within their test results
• The organisers of the London and Chicago marathons say the IAAF and the national anti-doping authorities failed to tell them that some athletes were competing with blood so heavily doped that it threatened their health
• The former world No 1 marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova recorded extreme blood scores for nine years before action was finally taken against her. Two of her scores had a billion-to-one chance of being natural
• Athletes with suspicious blood scores collected more than £3m for winning city marathons
•Only a third of the 105 athletes who were identified as likely cheats since the IAAF brought in new anti-doping measures have been banned.
The House of Commons culture, media and sport committee is set to hold a hearing into widespread doping in athletics in the autumn and is likely to call Lord Coe, the IAAF vice-president, who said last week that this newspaper had declared “war on athletics”.
Jesse Norman, chairman of the committee, has expressed his concern about evidence that suggests the athletics
authorities were doing too little to combat the blood-doping cheats. “If these allegations are true, they paint a damning picture of the state of world athletics and the IAAF in particular,” Norman said.
The IAAF last week again sent a legal letter to this newspaper asking it to destroy any copies of the blood-doping data — a database containing more than 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes, including many household names from across the world.
The data, which does not prove doping, was leaked by a whistleblower who was seriously concerned about the “disturbing” content and was analysed by two of the world’s foremost doping detection experts, Michael Ashenden and Robin Parisotto. Their analysis of the data indicated that a third of all medals in the Olympics and world championships endurance events were won by athletes with suspicious blood results between 2001 and 2012.
These findings were based on a range of blood scores for each athlete rather than just one as the IAAF attempted to claim last week.
The marathons worst affected were Chicago, London, New York and Boston. In London seven wins, six second places and seven third places out of 24 male and female races were secured by athletes whose blood tests were deemed suspicious by the experts. A total of 32 suspicious athletes finished in the top three positions at the marathons. Some of the abnormal blood tests were recorded at the time of the event and others at some point in their career.
A number of the athletes appeared to be risking a stroke or heart attack by using blood transfusions or banned red cell-boosting drugs such as erythropoietin (EPO) that made their blood so dense they should have been seeking hospital treatment rather than competing.
The results show the extent of blood test abnormalities registered by Shobukhova who was the best-performing female marathon runner in the world for several years.
She is a three-times winner of the Chicago marathon and also a victor in London in 2010 — netting a total of more than £1m in prize money.
Shobukhova had recorded extreme blood scores for nine years before the athletics authorities took action against her in 2014.
Her blood was dangerously thick from doping when she recorded her first victory at Chicago in 2009 and two years later when she ran the second-fastest time for a woman at the same event. Both tests had a one-in-a-billion chance of being natural.
However, organisers of the Chicago marathon were not told about the blood scores carried out by the IAAF and the United States anti-doping authorities that suggested her life was in danger.
“We never received any information indicating that Liliya Shobukhova’s Chicago blood test results were abnormal,” said a Chicago marathon spokeswoman.
The London marathon also said it had been kept in the dark about the suspicious blood tests discovered by the IAAF.
Nick Bitel, the London marathon chief executive, said the race had a zero tolerance of doping.
“We will certainly be asking the IAAF for their reaction to this and try to understand what lessons have to be learnt for the future,” he said.
The IAAF said yesterday that it had written to some athletes advising them not to compete because of their blood scores.
“It is then up to the athlete, in full knowledge of the risk, to decide whether or not to compete,” said a spokesman.
The IAAF said on Friday that it was “fully co-operating” with the independent investigative team set up by WADA.
It added that it will open its full database, including pre-2009 test results, to WADA and added that it “will invite WADA officials to study that material with the support of relevant IAAF anti-doping experts with immediate effect.”
Mo: here’s the proof I’m clean
The Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah is one of eight British athletes who have defied their federations by agreeing to release their own blood-test data.
Farah said: “The decision to release my results is a personal one — I’ve always said that I’m happy to do what it takes to prove that I’m a clean athlete.“
The athletes are rebelling against British Athletics and the IAAF, which asked them to keep their blood scores private.
Among the athletes are Jo Pavey, the European 10,000m champion, and Lisa Dobriskey, a world championships 1500m silver medallist.
There are now growing calls for all athletes’ blood scores to be published. Dobriskey said: “I think it’s a great idea to publish data. It’s an athlete saying, ‘I have nothing to hide’. ”