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Jolanda Ceplak Nearing Doping Ban for EPO
by Bob Ramsak
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
November 20, 2007

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Olympic 800m bronze medallist Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia edged closer to a two-year doping ban today after the nation’s athletics federation rejected any doubts about the validity of the athlete’s positive test for EPO last June.

“All doubts about the tests’ accuracy have been disproved,” said Peter Kukovica, president of the AZS, Slovenia’s athletics federation, announcing the unanimous decision by the federation’s anti-doping commission.

The 31-year-old Ceplak, the world indoor record holder in the 800m, tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO after an out-of-competition test in Monte Carlo on June 18. The B sample test confirmed the A sample finding, resulting in a provisional suspension by the sport’s international governing body, the IAAF, on July 26.

In September, the anti-doping commission was unable to reach a decision in the case, pending an additional investigation. Expert testimony since from two noted biochemists and the Slovenian athletics team doctor has dispelled any possibility of testing irregularities, Kukovica said.

“After further hearings, we have concluded that all the proper procedures were followed,” Kukovica said.

The case will now be turned over to the federation’s disciplinary commission, which according to federation guidelines must rule on the athlete’s fate by December 18. A two-year ban is expected.

July’s announcement of her doping charge and subsequent provisional suspension shocked this tiny alpine nation of 2 million, where Ceplak is by far the most popular and well-known female athlete. With her career on the track on hold, Ceplak has been working as an endurance trainer for Ljublana’s Interblock football club.

Ceplak set the current world indoor record in the 800m, 1:55.82, at the 2002 European Indoor Championships and the following August won the European title outdoors as well. While struggling with injury since, she finished third at the 2004 Olympic Games, and took silver at the European indoor championships last March.

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