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Bernard Lagat Will Not Appeal German Court Ruling Not Letting Him Sue IAAF and WADA for Positive "A" Test Leak in 2003
By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2006 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
October 27, 2006

Bernard Lagat, the U.S. national record holder in the 1500 meters, said today that he will not appeal last month’s ruling by a German court that rejected the runner’s claim for lost income against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“After weighing up all the factors involved, I have decided not to pursue my case any further against the IAAF and WADA,” Lagat said in a press statement.

Late last year, Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500 meter medallist for his native Kenya, brought suit against the organizations, seeking 500,000 euros (US$ 630,000) in compensation after a preliminary positive drug test, which was later shown to be negative, forced him out of the 2003 World Championships and several other lucrative competitions. On September 14, Germany’s Landgericht Köln --Cologne Regional Court-- rejected Lagat’s claim, ruling that he could not prove the amount he sought.

 “I have been involved in trying to get justice for more than three years since I was proven innocent of having taken a performance-enhancing drug and this has taken a lot of emotional energy,” Lagat said. “It has become apparent to me that German courts are conservative institutions and not well-disposed to supporting the rights of an individual, regardless of the merits of a case, against powerful organizations that are much-better financed.”

Lagat insists that his suit was not only about the loss of dollars and euros.

“People will inevitably ask about the fact that my claim for compensation was rejected by the Cologne court. Sadly, some members of the media have focused solely on this aspect of the case but, as I have always said, the financial component of my case was never the most important one for me.

“Yes, I lost a significant amount of income by being unable to take part in the sport that I love, but that is also my livelihood, for part of the 2003 season. However, I have always maintained that there were much more important issues in this case than just this particular matter.”

While his case in the German court focused specifically on financial compensation, Lagat also brought into question several aspects of the test for rEPO, the blood-boosting agent Erythropoietin.

“The main reason for initiating proceedings against WADA and the IAAF was to demonstrate that the system of drug testing for EPO that existed in 2003, and which led to me being unable to compete in that year’s World Championships, was far from reliable. The debate I helped generate about these issues, and which I will continue to contribute to, has led to a much closer examination of the fairness of the overall drug testing system.”

And despite his loss in the courtroom, Lagat believes that he did succeed in adding to the drug-testing debate.

“I believe that those historic flaws have now been confirmed in recent comments by officials of both WADA and IAAF and I now feel vindicated by events outside of this legal action.”

Now, Lagat, whose 3:26.34 personal best from 2001 ranks him as history’s second fastest ever over 1500 meters, is looking forward.

“I remain disappointed that the IAAF is still not humble enough to issue a proper apology for their treatment of me in 2003 but I am now looking forward to challenging for a gold medal at the 2007 World Championships, an opportunity that was denied to me three years ago.”

In June, Lagat won both the 1500 and 5000 meters at the U.S. championships in Indianapolis, the first to ever achieve such a double. In London on July 28, he upset world record holder Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000, clocking 12:59.22.

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