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Eddy Hellebuyck Tests Positive for EPO
July 14, 2004

Eddy Hellebuyck, the America master's record holder at 10k, 15k, half marathon and marathon, has tested positive for the blood boosting drug EPO.

Hellebuyck tested positive originally in an out of competition test earlier this year and he was notified of the positive results in March. Since then his "B" sample has come back positive as well for EPO.

Eddy and his legal team, led by Howard Jacobs (lawyer for Tim Montgomery), filed a motion to dismiss the findings and received word on Friday that the findings had been upheld. Now the case will go to a USADA arbitration panel.

In a telephone conversation this morning with LetsRun.com's Weldon Johnson, Shawn Hellebuyck - Eddy's wife and agent - insisted on Helleybuyck's innocence. "We're confident we'll win in arbitration" she said.  Hellebuyck said their lawyer Jacobs advised them that if Eddy was guilty his best bet to continue racing would be to confess, rat on other people in the drug network, and get a reduced ban.

However she said, "We're not part of a network, he (Eddy) didn't do this, I know his performances indicate (to some since he ran 2:12 as a master) he uses it, he may make a decent living, but he doesn't make enough to do this, this (EPO) is for a 2:05 (marathon) guy, he's just a freak, it (his success) is just based on motivation".

Shawn did not want to go on the record about too many details of Eddy's defense before the arbitration hearing, but did discuss a few details. The EPO test is a fairly complicated that can take several days to conduct. Ultimately, it involves matching up bands of EPO and determining where these bands fall and what percent of the bands are in the basic range of test results.  Shawn said that 82% of Eddy's bands were in this positive range with 80% being deemed a positive test by the UCLA lab that carried out the test. Shawn stated that of the 6 accredited IOC labs that carry out the EPO test, only the UCLA lab has this 80% threshold, and thus in all the other labs Eddy's test would have been deemed negative. She said 4 of the labs had an 85% threshold, and the Australian lab a 86% threshold.

We were unable to confirm Shawn Helleybuck's allegations on the 85% threshold for the other labs. However, in the arbitration ruling before the World Court of Arbitration in Sport involving cyclist Bo Hamburger in 2001, where Hamburger was cleared because one of his samples only showed a 78.6% match for rEPO, the world arbitration body ruled that it found the 80% level (which it said was the Intentional Olympic Committee standard and was apparently the standard of the Lausanne lab) to be sufficient, despite learning that the Paris lab sometimes required an 85% level. The ruling stated, "However, having heard the evidence, the Panel is 'comfortably satisfied' that a level of 80%, can in any event, prove the presence of rEPO, especially since this level is a statistical level established from the highest level found in a negative test plus three standard deviations and one additional precautionary extra allowance of 10%. In the end, according to the evidence available to the Panel, this level only says that the chances of a wrong positive result are 1:15,000. In this connection the Panel learned with surprise that the IOC-accredited laboratory in Paris has, apparently, sometimes required a level of 85%." The court of Arbitration in Sport did add in the Hamburger case, "The Panel would greatly welcome it if... such criteria were to be uniform for all laboratories. This is particularly desirable so that all athletes are treated equally."  Arbitration rulings, unlike court rulings, are not binding on other arbitration rulings.

The World Anti Doping Agency Repot in the EPO urine test, says the 80% threshold is the present threshold in place.

Shawn Hellebuyck was confident in their case before the USADA arbitration panel but acknowledged nothing was certain, "Nothing is guaranteed in arbitration because they have the term 'comfortable satisfaction' (instead of beyond a reasonable doubt to prove guilt)... that part scares me, because only 15% of the rulings are in favor of athletes."

But she added, "We wouldn't go to arbitration and say someone put this in my toothpaste (like Dieter Baumann), I'm not blowing $20,000 unless I know we have a strong case." She said Eddy was reluctant at first to fight the case because he is nearing retirement anyway and fighting will cost him approximately $20,000 in legal fees. She said Eddy pointed out to the case of Bernard Lagat who's "A" sample was positive for EPO but "B" sample negative.  "Well, look at Lagat, he got it corrected (his positive test result), and they still bad mouth him."  She said Eddy's original thoughts were, "Why do I have to pay $20 grand to get this resolved, I don't really care what people think about me, I 'd rather have $20,000 more in checking." However, after thinking about it more he decided to fight the positive results.

Shawn had harsh things to say about the current EPO test, "This current test is an insult to science, is a guesstimate, there's actually a new and  improved one that is coming out, but they can't do it until after the Olympics."

Shawn Hellebuyck said that in the past she quit working as an agent in the late 1990s for Tatyana Pozdnyakova when she tested positive at the Houston Marathon for a banned stimulant. Pozdnyakova has gone on to dominant women's masters marathoning and won $100,000 for winning the LA Marathon this spring. Shawn said "How much money do you think I lost? (from dropping her as a client)".

In an interesting development, Shawn also said that there are other athletes who apparently have tested for positive for EPO (she was not sure if they were track and field runners) who are waiting for their positive tests to be announced.

Eddy Hellebuyck earned a reported $82,000 in prize money and the Twin Cities marathon last year from road racing according to this article in the Albuquerque Tribune.

*To read the World Anti Doping Agency Report on the EPO test click here

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