Following a blood trail

On February 27, 2013 the Swedish Broadcaster SVT aired a documentary about high hematocrit values among top cross country skiers in the 1990s. In the program the journalists state that they have worked on this story for four years.

Uncovering anything in sports is hard. Trying to prove that iconic athletes in a very popular national sport has used prohibited substances or methods is even harder. In order to uncover such actions you need proof. When it comes to doping you would need blood or urine or both. Since blood bags or urine samples will be very hard to come by, using hematocrit values is not a bad second option.

So when the journalists in the program ‘Uppdrag Granskning’ got hold of a document showing who had suspicious high hematocrit values in a world cup race in Lahti in Finland in 1997, they finally had some proof that the national was not as clean as we would like it to be. It was not as clean as snow.
The source for the document was no other than shamed cross country skier coach, Finnish Kari Peka Kyrö. The Finn was head coach for the national cross country ski team in Finland 1991 when during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti in Finland the – more or less – entire team was caught for doping (Hemohes). He has recently given evidence to two now very discussed (at least in Norway) TV-documentaries on doping in cross country skiing – When Heros Lie (Finland) and now Blood Trails (SVT, Sweden).

The journalists behind the documentary decided to follow the blood trail and use hematocrit values that they had gotten from the Finnish coach. It is not wrong to follow the blood trail in endurance sports like cross country skiing or cycling for that matter.
Just to underline this:
In The Anti-Doping Database we had in 2013 registered 63 doping cases related to cross country skiing. Two publicly known cases was still unresolved – Veerpalu and a Finnish skier had both tested positive for human growth hormone (HGH). Russia, Finland and Austria topped our list of sanctioned athletes. EPO and EPO-related substances topped the list. We have also looked at which substance classifications is topping the list, and we see that products that enhances oxygen transfer has been used by the most athletes. 19 cases in total to be exact. Stimulants are in second place with 11 cases, while diuretics and other masking agents have six cases. Only five cases involves steroids.

Viewers watching the program was told that many athletes had high hematocrit values in the 1990s. The creators of the program had focused on those athletes that had been on the podium in World Cup races and World Championships in 1995 and 1997. “Unfortunately” for Norway, and for Norwegian cross country skiing, one skier dominated the sport in these years – Olympian Bjørn Dæhlie.
Therefor it was not odd that the journalists wanted to get in touch with him. Dæhlie is also the most decorated Winter Olympian. But there was also other Norwegian and Swedish athletes that was confronted by the journalists in the documentary. They also confronted Silvio Fauner from Italy and Vladimir Smirnov from Kazakhstan. There has been discussions about the methods the journalists used when confronting the athletes with their hematocrit values, but that is a different discussion which is related to journalism and not doping in sports.

Days before the documentary was sent, the national ski federations in Sweden and Norway have criticized the program heavily. They have stated that the hematocrit levels was measured with a  machine that – compared to standards of today – don’t have the same level of accuracy. They are therefor claiming that using the hematocrit levels, especially for this competition and in the late 1990s must be cautious. There are room for errors in those levels they claimed.
In a chat related to the program after the documentary was aired, a visitor asked on vital question: Why is it then that for some athletes the hematocrit levels was normal, while for those on the podium they were high – and for some sky high? It is a plausible question.

As I learned after watching some debates and interviews after the show, the hematocrit levels is highly sensitive. It can depend on when the sample was collected, what the athlete had done just prior to sample collection and so on.
There is a standard in place for this now, and the methods are also different. Was it then wrong to use these values. Not really, as we have stated above.

One thing that I do react to is the reactions from the The Norwegian and Swedish Ski Federations. They are upset. Very upset. And they are entitled to be. After all we are talking about their most respected and decorated athletes being suspected for using prohibited substances or methods.
In the program they state that they have nothing to hide. If that is the truth, I am suggesting the following: publish, or make it possible for anyone to get this information easily, the hematocrit values for athletes from your countries during their careers. Show that you are as transparent as you stated in the documentary on SVT.

SVT held a debate about the program the following day. In this debate anti-doping expert Bengt Saltin – one of the experts being interviewed in the documentary – suggested that the national federations published the hematocrit values.
It is a good idea – not a new one – but a good one. When I say it is not a new one, it is because we’ve seen it in the sport of cycling, another endurance sport with doping problems. And so I am welcoming this idea.

In another debate, in another part of the world – at Yale university in the USA, CEO of United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Travis Tygart, told that their agency is publishing testing statistics on the athletes they have jurisdiction over. It has been put in place because the athletes wanted it to be like that. I am therefor suggesting that cross country skiers tell The international ski federation (FIS) or their National Ski Federation to publish their hematocrit values online.
If there is nothing to hide, don’t hide it.

About hematocrit:

The documentary (link from February 27, 2013 – in Swedish):


Operation Puerto – Day 1 & 2

Today two interesting informations came to light in the Operation Puerto trial. One was the defense of the doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and the other was someone is protecting all other sports except cycling.

Because the Anti-Doping laws was not in effect when the police raided the offices of Eufemiano Fuentes, the trial can only focus on the public health laws that applied in May 2006. The Anti-Doping laws was in place in November that same year. And because of this, Fuentes only states that the blood transfusions was used to treat anemia on the athletes. Traces of EPO was found in the blood bags, but Fuentes claims that the EPO comes from his treatment of his daughter who has cancer. EPO is used to treat cancer-patients.

Fuentes defense

So Fuentes will play the card stating that he treated patients – that happened to be professional athletes in different sports – throughout the whole trial. He will explain that all he did was using blood – which happened to be the athletes own blood that had been taped some weeks before.

It was only blood and of course without EPO, because that could be a health risk for the athlete. And because Fuentes will claim that it was only blood, the court has to answer (at least) these questions:  Is blood really an offence against public health?; was Fuentes endangering public health?

The naming game

On January 30 we also learned that Fuentes was willing to give names of all clients, but the judge Judge Julia Santamaria did not want the doctor to name names. As the case stands now, only cyclist will be the one to take the guilt from this operation, even though Fuentes have stated that soccer players, tennis players and boxers were among his clients. And we have reasons to believe that non of these clients from these other sports were at his offices to cure a sore throat.

So why is it that cycling is the only sport being exposed?

Most likely because they have less to loose. Everyone knows that there are and has been doping in cycling. Everyone also knows that doctors has been linked to cyclists. And everyone knows that blood doping has been used in cycling. It is less known that blood doping and EPO is performance enhancing in soccer and tennis. I do believe that EPO has been used in championships in the past, and it would not surprise me if it would benefit some tennis players.

EPO and Blood doping outside cycling

We currently have not registered any cases related to EPO or blood doping in tennis or cycling. The prohibited substance is mostly used in endurance sports like cycling, track and field and cross country to name a few.

There are of course other reasons why names in other sports are not mentioned or involved in the case. How would Spaniards react if it was reviled that stars in soccer, tennis and boxing was involved in the Puerto operation. I know how Norwegians would react if it was found that cross country skiers was found using blood doping and EPO.

So the other sports have more to loose than cycling, because here the reputation is already ruined.

The Spanish court has set aside time until March 22 for the case.


Cycling: Now what?

The biggest star in cycling, Lance Armstrong, is now suspended. This is final as UCI has decided not to appeal the decision taken by USADA. Now what can they and other sports do in order to avoid that a doping program at the scale and professionalism that was present at US Postal / Discovery Channel pro cycling team.

The doping program was started the year after the Festina case in cycling, the first really big doping system in cycling. Since then we’ve read about Operation Puerto and now the Armstrong case.

Why have we had such cases in sports?

Since 2005 the World Anti-Doping Code has been implemented by all national and international sport federations. And thanks to both WADA and the Code we now, seven years later, see that setting up WADA was and is the right thing to do.Prior to 2005 the athletes was far ahead of those who tried to fight doping in sport. Now that advantage is narrowing. The dopers are still ahead, but not by horse lengths.

What has happened since 2005?

As I have mentioned, we’ve gotten the Code. Thanks to the code and there are now ways to suspend athletes where the evidences are strong enough to prove that doping has happened. Such evidences comes from tools like the Biological Passport and methods to detect use of substances that has never before been possible. Such a method is the one being used to detect use of hGH. Instead of trying to find a test method that shows the actual substance, the laboratories are now looking at patterns that proves the use of the hormone. Same goes with EPO and other prohibited substances.

The Biological Passport is another way to show that the athlete is doping. With the passport system organizations and/or laboratories can see that the profile changes and based on these findings can suspend the athlete. So the window to catch the cheaters are now wider than it has used to be.

The whereabout system is another tool to remove the dopers from the sport. With this system Anti-Doping Organizations can find out where the athlete is supposed to be. The athlete can based on this information be tested out-of-competition without notification. If he/she is not available for testing the athlete will receive a warning. And after the third warning the athlete is suspended.
I would also believe that an athlete who decides to hide from the testers (like what the riders on US Postal did) will be targeted by the testers more frequently.

What will happen after October 22, 2012?

I believe that Lance Armstrong will not be the last big name to be suspended for doping in any sport. If we just look at cycling, I have a feeling that the suspension of Armstrong is just the first of many big names – that this is just the beginning.

If this happens we will be witness to the biggest house cleaning operation in any sport. If it doesn’t we are witness to something else.

I also believe that there will be more cases like this. And this because of the tools the Anti-Doping Organizations and the laboratories have to catch the dopers.

During the press conference the president of UCI, Mr. Pat McQuaid, said that in Chinese catastrophe is written with two characters. One which means possibilities, and I have to agree with McQuaid on this point. This recent big doping operation in the sport of cycling is yet another opportunity for the sports to get tougher in the fight against doping in sport.

I have great faith in the UCI. They have done a lot to fight doping in cycling. Since Pat McQuaid started as president there has been numerous big doping cases in the sport. We’ve seen suspensions of most of the winners of the Tour de France since 1999 and until now. That is the price to pay when you are fighting doping in sport.


Black Wednesday for Cycling

Wednesday October 10 will be remembered in the sports world, at least in the sport of cycling, when the US Antidoping Agency (USADA) published their evidence in the case against one of the sport of cycling greatest athletes – Lance Armstrong.

The american cycling might not be remembered as just that much longer though.

I have read the 202 pages long Reasoned Decision published by USADA, and the evidence is crushing for Armstrong. George Hincapie, David Zabriskie, Tom Donaldson, Christian Vande Velde and Levi Leipheimer are among those witnesses that has told USADA that they have seen Armstrong use prohibited substances or methods, that they also have been them selves using prohibited substances and methods; that they have been taught how to beat the system; how they shall avoid being tested and so on.

USADA calls the doping system at US Postal/Discovery Cycling Team the most sophisticated in the history of sport, and after reading the Decision paper I could not agree more.

I must applaud USADA in doing this. Why?

  • They are, based on evidence from cyclists, tracking down one of the most important athletes in the sport of cycling. This shows that they will take you to sports court and – if the decision is in their favor  – suspend you under the current rules. No matter if your name is Ola Norseman or Lance Armstrong
  • It also shows that if an International Sports Federation does not want to suspend their most prominent athlete, or does not have a good enough doping program in place, someone else will do something about any Anti-Doping Rule Violation. Which is what USADA has done in this case.
  • The decision paper also shows how important the Whereabout rule in sport is – and that this rule also apply all athletes.

Am I chocked by the content of the Reasoned Decision? Yes.


Because the information in it is overwhelming.

This is some of what it shows:

How to fool the system

The US Postal/Discovery Cycling Team, Lance Armstrong and his doctor Michele Ferrari conducted a doping regime in the team that involved blood doping, EPO-usage, testosterone, Human Growth Hormone and other prohibited substances or methods.

EPO was used to make it harder to detect the use of blood doping. EPO was also injected late at night and also directly into the vein so that the substance was inside the body a shorter period than if injected outside the vein.

Prior to the Whereabout rule was enforced the athletes were able to go to remote places where doping testers rarely were seen. One such place was Puigcerdà in Spain where Armstrong traveled according to the USADA papers.

Still after the introduction of the whereabout rule Armstrong was able to fool that system as well. The papers shows that on more than on occasion Armstrong gave false information to USADA. At the same time he gave correct information to his doctor Ferrari – a doctor he claims not to have any contact with.

How to avoid the testers

The riders on the US Postal team was told how to beat the testing system. In the paper Tyler Hamilton explains:

We also had another time honored strategy for beating the testing – we hid. At the time, the whereabouts programs of drug testing agencies were not very robust, the UCI did not even have an out of competition testing program. If a tester did show up, you typically would not get a missed test even if you decided not to answer the door. In any case, there was no penalty until you had missed three tests. So, avoiding testing was just one more way we gamed the system.

The riders were also advised not to answer the door if a tester came to visit. They were also advised to take their substances at a friends place rather than at home.

During the 2010 Tour de France independent observers from WADA wrote in their report how the whole system tricked the anti-doping program during the race:

For instance, at the 2010 Tour de France on two occasions the WADA independent observer (I.O.) team reported surveillance by cycling teams on the lookout for UCI testers. The WADA I.O. team reported they “could clearly see two persons watching the parking [lot] from their room windows half hidden behind the curtain as well as a team member seated in front of the hotel who immediately used his mobile phone when he saw the UCI [drug testing] team.”

In the Independent Observer report insufficient efforts to ensure the confidentiality of test planning were also noted. Further, the elementary recommendations of suggesting that testers not wear prominent I.D. badges and Tour-branded clothing and not arrive in a Tour-branded car were made because the arrival of testers was at times so conspicuous as to provide advance notice to those about to be tested.

If a rider became aware that another had recently used drugs and learned that the drug testers were around they would warn their teammate. An example of this was when George Hincapie was aware that Lance Armstrong had recently used testosterone and Hincapie learned that testers were at the hotel. Hincapie texted Armstrong who dropped out of the race to avoid being tested.


According to Armstrong he has been tested 500 times and not provided any positive findings. USADA finds this number hard to believe. Firstly because they have only conducted less than 60 doping tests of the athlete. Secondly because UCI only has conducted slightly 200 or so doping cases. This only adds up to  approximately 250 or so doping tests, more or less half of what Armstrong claims.

These tests are the total in his very long and very successful career.

USADA believes that UCIs blood draws for their health test program and for the biological passport program has been included to get the number up to 500. The blood draws cannot count as doping tests as

… the UCI has never traditionally tried to detect prohibited substances such as testosterone, EPO or corticosteroids in these blood samples.

Cover up – or what is it?

In 1999 Armstrong tested positive for EPO on six occasions. In the papers it says:

One of the positivity criteria used by LNDD was a percentage of basic isoforms of 85% or higher. Armstrong’s six samples produced test results of 100%, 89.7%, 96.6%, 88.7%, 95.2% and 89.4%. These are resoundingly positive values.

In 2001 Armstrong again has suspicious values during the Tour of Switzerland. In the papers it says:

The 2001 Tour du Suisse (Tour of Switzerland) was conducted from June 19 – 28, 2001. Dr. Martial Saugy, the Director of the WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, has confirmed to both USADA and the media that his laboratory detected a number of samples in the 2001 Tour du Suisse that were suspicious for the presence of EPO. Dr. Saugy also told USADA that upon reporting these samples to UCI, he was told by UCI’s Medical Commission head that at least one of these samples belonged to Mr. Armstrong, but that there was no way Mr. Armstrong was using EPO.

 The witnesses

We’ve mentioned a few witnesses above, and we’ve mentioned these on purpose. This because these have all not been sanctioned for anti-doping rule violations in the past. This gives them weight among other witnesses like Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis. The two latter mentioned have both been suspended for anti-doping rule violations, Hamilton twice. Both have contested their suspensions and spent a lot of time and money to try and clear their names.

Now they have come forward and told their story which has now uncovered the seven time Tour de France winner Armstrong.

Now what?

So now we have the decision from the USADA. It, and probably more papers, has been sent to the UCI and to the International Triathlon Federation so that the two International Sports Federations can either impose s suspension on Armstrong or contest the decision to the CAS.

Armstrongs lawyer Tim Herman has started their work in the public:

Armstrong’s attorney says USADA acted as “prosecutor, judge, jury, appellate court and executioner” in announcing its decision to ban Armstrong, calling its findings a “biased, one-sided and untested version of events.” (

I hope that other sports federations (both National Anti-Doping Agencies, National Sports Federations and International Sports Federations) look at the USADA and UCI and learn from them – both the good and the bad. This case shows, as I have stated before, that no athlete is safe from being suspended after violated anti-doping regulations.

It is of course bad for the sport that the biggest name is caught, but at the same time it is good that it happens. It proves that no one can think that they are better to dope than the other. And you get the bad ones out.

Let us hope that Armstrong was the last big name to be sanctioned for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation. Although I don’t think it is…



Athletes can be suspended for more than two years

There are written articles from time to time that athletes should be banned for more than two years. And the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) states in 10.6 that International Sports Federations or National Anti-Doping Agencies can sanction an athlete with a suspension that is longer than two years.

WADC: 10.6 Aggravating Circumstances Which May Increase the Period of Ineligibility
If the Anti-Doping Organization establishes in an individual case involving an anti-doping rule violation other than violations under Articles 2.7 (Trafficking or Attempted Trafficking) and 2.8 (Administration or Attempted Administration) that aggravating circumstances are present which justify the imposition of a period of
Ineligibility greater than the standard sanction, then the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable shall be increased up to a maximum of four (4) years unless the Athlete or other Person can prove to the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing panel that he or she did not knowingly commit the anti-doping rule violation.

The International Weightlifting Federation is using the maximum penalty in all their cases. In Track And Field (Athletics) we have registered 32 cases where an athlete has received four years.


Anti-Doping rules do differ from country to country

In an open letter to Daley Thompson CBE, David Howman of WADA writes:

“The alternative would be to have anti-doping rules that vary from country to country, and sport to sport, which would be a return to the dark ages of anti-doping and a problem which existed during your time as an elite athlete.
It would result in athletes in different sports or from different countries receiving different bans for the same offences, and even worse athletes from the same sport receiving different penalties depending on the country they competed for. Indeed that was the very problem that led to the formation of WADA and the writing of a uniform Code.”

Well, the fact is that on some articles in the code the rules do differ. Since I am mostly concerned with the 14.2 Public Disclosure articles, these articles are the ones that I will write about in this post.

In Article 14.2.1 it says:

The identity of any Athlete or other Person who is asserted by an Anti-Doping Organization to have committed an anti-doping rule violation, may be publicly disclosed by the Anti-Doping Organization with results management responsibility only after notice has been provided to the Athlete or other Person in accordance with Articles 7.2, 7.3 or 7.4, and to the applicable Anti-Doping Organizations in accordance with Article 14.1.2.

The key word in this article is may. Which is why some International Sports Federations does not publicly disclose the name of the substance, at which event the Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) occurred.

In Article 14.2.2 it says:

No later than twenty (20) days after it has been determined in a hearing in accordance with Article 8 that an anti-doping rule violation has occurred, or such hearing has been waived, or the assertion of an anti-doping rule violation has not been timely challenged, the Anti-Doping Organization responsible for results management must publicly report the disposition of the anti-doping matter including the sport, the anti-doping rule violated, the name of the Athlete or other Person  committing the violation, the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method involved and the Consequences imposed. The same Anti-Doping Organization must also publicly report within twenty (20) days appeal decisions concerning anti-doping rule violations. The Anti-Doping Organization shall also, within the time period for publication, send all hearing and appeal decisions to WADA.

As it states in 14.2.2 the NADA must publicly report, but that is not the case in quite a numerous of countries or International Sports Federation.

So why is it so?

The reason is privacy laws. In some countries they cannot publicly disclose any names or any other information that would identify the athlete.

So even though the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) is created to unify the rules and regulations in the fight against doping in sport, the fact is that there is differences. There are even differences in sanctions. Because we register cases from all over the world, and because this registration is manual, we learn that some countries have tougher sanctions on substances like Methylhexaneamine. Some countries suspend athletes that has tested positive for the named substance for two years – no matter what, others sanction for three to six months.

However: Without the WADC we would not even be here. We might not have the biological passport, nor the whereabout system – or some countries would, and some wouldn’t. The WADC is the right tool and the right way to go.



Collecting sample for analyzis

After the clearing of Baseball-player Ryan Braun the athlete and his lawyer has casted doubts on the collector of the sample. In this blog I am assuming that the collector is using the same procedures as is used among Olympic sports – or non-North American pro leagues.

When an athlete has been picked out to do a doping test he is being contacted by a doping control officer (DCO) or a chaperone that has been instructed by the DCO and also have the correct training. The DCO and the Chaperone will escort the athlete to the Doping Control Station. If desired the athlete can request presence of an Athlete Representative during sample collection. This person can during the sample collection accompany the athlete during notification and to the Doping Control Station. He or she can also assist in the selection of equipment and sealing process where asked to do so by the athlete. He or she can also assist in the completion of paperwork where asked to do so by the athlete.

The equipment used to collect samples shall have a unique numbering system incorporated into all containers in which the athlete’s sample is collected. The sealing shall be tamper-evident. The equipment shall not provide any information about the athlete. And the equipment shall also be clean and sealed prior to use.

The athlete can decide which equipment he or she would like to use. They are all identical except for the numbering.

During Collection the athlete him- or herself are responsible for the sample. He or she shall at all time carry the sample to the administration area. The athlete shall also divide the collected urine and pour the required minimum volume of urine into the B container. The recommended amount is 40% of the total.

The athlete shall then pour the remainder of the urine into the A container. The recommended amount is 60% of the total. The athlete shall then pour any remaining urine into the B container. The athlete is then instructed by the DCO to seal both the A and B containers. Both the DCO and the athlete shall check that the bottles are securely sealed.

I would assume that the procedure has been followed in the Braun case.

The discussion is all about how to store the sample. In the WADA guideline for urine sample collection  it says:

5.14 Sample Storage
5.14.1 The Lead DCO has the responsibility for ensuring, in accordance with the ADO criteria for sample storage, that all samples are stored in a manner that protects their identity, integrity and security whilst in the Doping Control Station.
5.14.2 Samples must not be left unattended, unless they are locked away in a refrigerator or cupboard, for example. Access shall be restricted to authorized personnel.
5.14.3 Where possible, samples shall be stored in a cool environment. Warm conditions should be avoided.
5.14.4 The DCO shall accurately complete appropriate documentation for each transport bag/container to ensure that the laboratory can verify the contents of the bag/container.
5.14.5 The DCO shall follow the ADO’s system to ensure that, where required, instructions for the type of analysis to be conducted are provided to the laboratory.
5.14.6 The DCO shall complete the laboratory advice form/chain of custody form. The laboratory copy of this form(s) and the laboratory copy of the doping control form shall be placed in the transport bag with the samples, and sealed, preferably in the presence of a second person. Documentation identifying the Athlete shall not be included with the samples.
5.14.7 If relevant, the DCO shall record the times the transport bag is opened and re-sealed on the laboratory advice form or chain of custody form.
5.14.8 The DCO shall keep the samples secured and under his or her control until they are passed to the courier.
5.14.9 All documentation relevant to the testing session shall be forwarded to the ADO by the approved method as soon as possible after sample collection.

About transporting the sample, the WADA guideline for urine sample collection says:

5.15. Transport of Samples
5.15.1 Samples shall be shipped to the WADA accredited laboratory as soon as practical, and wherever possible on the day of collection.
5.15.2 Samples may be taken directly to the laboratory by the DCO, or handed over to a third party for transportation. This third party must document the chain of custody of the samples. If an approved courier company is used to transport the samples, the DCO shall record the waybill number.
5.16 Hand-over of Samples to the laboratory
5.16.1 Laboratories are required to document receipt and the subsequent chain of custody of samples. Samples are reviewed for evidence of tampering or damage, and stored in appropriate conditions in accordance with the International Standard for Laboratories.

From what I can understand the DCO has followed procedures when he stored the sample in a secure place that was cold enough not to ruin the samples.

This case how ever opens up a new scenario. Shall there be located local storage centers for doping samples? or shall DCOs have a secure area in their houses to store samples if they cannot be delivered to the laboratory the same day? If the DCO had such a room / area in his house in this case, the outcome might have looked differently.

You can learn more about the collection process in this WADA video.


IOC and WADA puts preasure on Spain

Spain wants to organize the Summer Olympic Games in 2020. But in order to do this, they have to do something about doping in sports. It is obvious that there has been some talks between the Spanish government and the IOC and/or WADA. And it is also obvious that Spain has been told a thing or two before bidding for the Olympic Games in 2020.

It is also quite easy to see that the “threats” from IOC is working. About a week before the decision of Alberto Contador at CAS, the News agency Reuters published an article informing us all that Spain

“… plans to take ‘urgent’ action to bring its legislation into line with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) guidelines” (Quote taken from Reuters)

The words came from Spains Sports Minister Jose Ignacio Wert in a speech to parliament. He also said that it is vital for Spain to update their doping rules in order to bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

A week after the Contador decision – where the Spanish cyclist was handed a two years suspension from the CAS – the Sports Minister was quoted after admitting at Forum de la Nueva Sociedad  that Spain has a problem with doping in sports. According to Reuters and other newsagencies  he said:

“Of course we have a problem with doping, there’s no secret it’s one of the hottest topics of the moment. For this reason we are going to try and approve the modifications to the anti-doping law as quickly as possible to reaffirm our commitment to this cause. We must comply with the world anti-doping code because it is of capital importance to the Madrid 2020 bid (for the Olympic Games).”

(Quote taken from Reuters)

Since 2000 Spain has had quite their share of doping scandals – which has been dealt with in probably the best way – like the Operation Puerto where more than 50 athletes was involved – and rumors had it that there were athletes from other sports than cycling as well.

Links to articles regarding doping and Spain:


Some reflections about the CAS decision on Contador

The written decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the Contador case is no less than 98 pages and is quite an interesting read.

Here are some facts:

The parties involved was The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Alberto Contador and the Real Federación Española di Ciclismo (RFEC – The Spanish cycling federation).

According to the papers Contador provided the sample that later showed up as a positive case for Clenbuterol. The sample was collected between 20:20 and 20:30 on the 21 July, 2010. Contador confirmed on the doping control form that the sample had been collected in accordance with the regulations.

The A sample was analyzed on 26 July 2010 at the WADA accredited Laboratory for Doping Analysis – German Sports University Cologne in Cologne, Germany. It resulted from the certificate of analysis of 19 August 2010 that the A sample contained clenbuterol in a concentration of 50 pg/mL. UCI informed Contador about the positive findings on August 24 2010. Two days later Contador was in an official meeting with the UCI about the adverse analytical finding, the full documentation of the A sample analysis. Contador asked for the B sample to be analyzed at this meeting. The athlete explained that the origin of the Prohibited Substance must have been contaminated meat at this meeting.

On September 8 the B Sample was analyzed and the same low concentration of clenbuterol was found in the B sample. WADA had also requested that Contadors samples from 22, 24 and 25 of July 2010 was analyzed as well. These samples also showed concentrations of clenbuterol – 16pg/mL, 7 pg/mL and 17 pg/mL. A blood sample taken on the morning of July 20 also contained clenbuterol – 1 ug/mL.

Fast forward to 26 November 2010 and Contador has had a hearing at the RFEC. On January 25, 2011 the Spanish federation first proposed that Contador was to be suspended for one year starting on August 26, 2010 and ending on August 25. 2011. Contador refused this decision on February 7, 2011. A week later RFEC decided that Contador had not violated any anti-doping regulations and that the positive test came from contaminated meat – and that you cannot prevent an athlete from eating meat.

Fast forward to March 24, 2011 – UCI appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Five days later WADA appeals to CAS. UCI suggests that the date for a hearing to the week of 6 June 2011. WADA accepted this date. Contador did not. And in the decision you can read the fight for when the hearing shall take place (page 10 and onwards). CAS suggested that a hearing was to take place in Lausanne 7-9 and 13. of June 2011. And we all know that didn’t happen. Why? Well, neither RFEC nor Contador was not available on these dates, how ever 15 and 16 of June was better, but later Contador found that any hearing in June 2011 was impossible. It would prejudice his defence…

Contador also requested more information which he got from UCI and because of this request the dates for the hearing had to be moved. And so during a conference call CAS suggested that the hearing would take place on August 1-3, 2011. On May 30 all parties confirmed that they were available on the suggested dates. Around this time Contador got the requested information from UCI, and then asked for some translation and more information from WADA. CAS issued that WADA was to give information translations until 2. July 2011. This date was later moved to July 4.

During this period WADA has also introduced a request to use a protected witness which led to quite some stir on the Contador side.

On July 1, RFEC filed it’s answers to CAS, WADA followed up with answers on the 4th of July and Contadors side delivered their answers four days later (after an agreement with CAS), and made new requests for more information… WADA also filed an additional statement from the protected witness explaining why he/she considered needing protection.

On July 15, CAS decided to deny WADA’s request to hear such witness in protected manner.

On July 22, WADA requested a second round of submissions be permitted to address certain specific issues raised by the Respondent in their answers (the transfusion theory and the clenbuterol-contaminated meat in Europe). Because of the request the hearing had to be moved again. And on July 28 UCI and WADA indicated that they would be available for a hearing 1-4. November 2011. Contador however – was not available for a hearing on the proposed days. But on the 20-24. November he was available and so CAS decided to hold the hearing on November 21-24. 2011.

During the time from September and November Contador had to ask for extensions to file additional submissions.

Some reflections:

It seems to me that prior to the hearing the legal counsel of Contador (and maybe also Contador) did what they could to postpone the hearing, while WADA and UCI wanted a decision before the Tour de France in 2011.

It could be that the time it took from Contador was given official notice of the positive test and until CAS could arbitrate was needed, but that is something we’ll never know.

The hearing – or more so – after the hearing

Before the hearing was concluded all parties were asked by the CAS whether they were satisfied with the procedure and whether their right to be heard had been respected.

The UCI expressed that they were not entirely satisfied; it was surprised by the way the experts’ conferences were dealt with and did not find it entirely adequate.

WADA raised a number of objections during the hearing, which were detailed in a document that was countersigned also by the UCI.

Contadors Counsel stated he did not understand the view of the Appellants and disagreed with their objections. Also the RFEC agreed with the Counsel of Contador and expressed its appreciation for the constructive spirit of the members of the CAS Panel. The RFEC considered that all the parties were treated equally and rightfully.

In other words: Contador and the RFEC were happy with the process at the CAS, UCI and WADA was not.

So when RFEC and Contador feel that the cyclist has not had a fair process at the CAS, they must have forgotten what was said at the end of the hearing. As for others outside the CAS, they cannot have read the decision papers.

As for me: I feel that CAS has done what they can to please Contador and his legal counsel. The Spanish cyclist and his legal counsel has done what they can to prolong the process and hopefully end up without a suspension. Their strategy nearly worked.

About the suspension:

The CAS has given Contador a two year suspension for a positive test of clenbuterol. According to our database that is a fair suspension. Most of our registered cases involving clenbuterol ends up with a two year suspension. How ever. Since they backdated the start of the suspension to January 2011 – and also giving credit for the time he was provisionally suspended – making it possible for Contador to race again in August 2012, they have made a mistake.

This because Contador has been doing organized training and competing as any other non-doped athlete is doing. Instead of a two year long suspension, Contador now has about five months suspension plus approximately eight months suspension. That is about 13 months active suspension.

Some reflections

I noticed on a press conference in Spain on Wednesday February 7 that Contador said that he will compete again after the suspension and without cheating – which he had never done. If you notice his body language when he said this, you can start wondering if he really meant this.

In the decision papers WADA and UCI makes a valid point that Contador more than once has been involved in cycling teams that has had doping issues in the past and also his contacts with the former “Operation Puerto” cycling team manager Manolo Saiz.

About reactions:

There has been some reactions on this decision. Some have concerns for the whole process and the time it took to come to a decision. I have highlighted the reason for the time span in this case. How ever, it is taking much longer to suspend athletes now than earlier and this is of a concern for all processes related to anti-doping in sports. This is something IOC, WADA and SportAccord should look into.

Some athletes, especially Spanish athletes, has been quite harsh on the decision taken by CAS. I cannot blame them, and I believe most nation athletes would react when one of their biggest stars is suspended for doping and especially in case like this were quite a few feel that the amount of clenbuterol is so small that it cannot be considered doping.

I can hardly wait until someone is caught using micro-doses of EPO…


The CAS decision:

ITV commenting on the ruling:


Contador suspended, can he be suspended again?

Today it was known that Alberto Contador received a two year sanction for a positive test in the 2010 Tour de France where he tested positive for Clenbuterol. The Spaniard has claimed that he got the substance inside his body from contaminated beef. The Spanish cycling federation cleared the athlete, but both UCI and WADA appealed the decision to the CAS.

CAS came to the conclusion that the cyclist had violated anti-doping regulations and that he was to be suspended for two years.
They did however backdate the suspension to august 2010, which means that the athlete can ride again from august 2012.
This is normal procedure in most cases where the athlete is provisionally suspended, and where the athlete stops competing while the case against him/her is ongoing.

Contador on the other hand has competed in Tour de France in 2011 and in Giro d’Italia the same year. And he has been able to practice with his team. All of which is breaches with the Anti-Doping regulations.

I have some questions:
a) Has CAS set a new standard with the Contador-case? Is it now OK to compete while your doping case is under investigation or waiting for a juridical decision?
b) Will the Anti-Doping Panel at UCI decide that Contador has violated anti-doping regulations when competing in the suspension period?
If they do, they can prolong the suspension period set by the CAS to two more years.

Press release: