IAAF Spokesman Nick Davies Writes LetsRun.com About Reports IAAF Did Not Follow Up for Retesting 150 Suspicious Samples from 2006-2008

by: Nick Davies, IAAF
December 10, 2014

Editor’s note: Today, LetsRun.com’s Weldon Johnson received an email from IAAF Deputy General Secretary and Spokesman Nick Davies to publish a piece on LetsRun.com. Nick’s letter is published below. Nick’s letter is in response to German TV station, ARD, in its third installment on its investigation on doping in athletics, alleging that the IAAF did not follow up and target for testing 150 athletes with suspicious blood levels in 2006-2008. This story was picked up in the British press, where the Telegraph has an article today with the subheadline, “Telegraph Sport has seen the documents which show hundreds of cases of abnormal readings suggesting a cover-up by athletics world body, the International Association of Athletics Federations”. Nick’s letter is below.

Dear Weldon,

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As official spokesman of the IAAF I note with interest the coverage that you are giving to recent media coverage of alleged doping offences, especially involving Russian Athletics.

There is no doubt that the first two episodes of the ARD documentary on doping in Russia were very useful since they uncovered some information – evidence – that can be used by the IAAF Anti-doping department in co-operation with WADA – to investigate alleged infractions and perhaps end up with concrete sanctions.

However, I was extremely shocked to note in the third episode of the documentary, to see use of selected information by what was named as a “former member of the IAAF Medical Commission” to imply, completely unfairly, that 150 athletes had suspicious blood values and were NOT subject to proper targeted testing afterwards. Not only am I bothered, from an ethical standpoint, that this PARTIAL and misleading information has been stolen from the IAAF Anti-doping department, since it contains highly sensitive and private data of a personal nature, but that the list of names has somehow been “seen” by other media attending the IOC session in Monaco, who have followed up with sensationalist articles about said list and what it represents.

As any half educated fan of athletics who has an interest in the science of anti-doping should know, a single reading in a longitudinal study of blood values in itself is worthless as evidence of doping, but is used as a MARKER. Athletes with a “red flag” reading may well be guilty of doping, but equally (and we can prove it in the majority of names on this list) they may be innocent – which is why this information should always have remained locked up in the safe of the anti-doping department in Monaco.

In my opinion, and I reserve the right to respond myself to the IAAF Ethics Commission, a number of media have reacted in an unethical manner with the intention to cause unfair reputational damage to the IAAF Anti-doping department and the reputation of athletes who have been carefully followed as the result of a single “red flag” marker which this list represents, and completely exonerated without even being aware that a problem exists. We must never forget the rights of athletes to have their privacy respected, a fact that is reflected in the IAAF anti-doping rules and procedures. Former- associates of the IAAF, hiding in the darkness, should never be allowed the possibility to destroy reputations with information that is taken completely out of context and I believe that the “showing” of this list was disgraceful, cowardly and will do nothing to combat the scourge of doping in athletics.

All the best,

Nick Davies
IAAF Spokesman

Mark Wetmore, Lamine Diack and Nick Davies in New York in 2012 Mark Wetmore, Lamine Diack and Nick Davies in New York in 2012

Editor’s note: Below is the official IAAF reaction to ARD Documentary 3

In response to further allegations made last night (8) in the WDR TV programme Inside Sport concerning the integrity of Athletics’ anti-doping programme with respect to the haemoglobin values of a number of athletes in the period 2006-2009, the IAAF would like to point out the following:

1. The Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) was launched by the IAAF only in 2009, when WADA set out a harmonised regulatory framework allowing the use of reliable and comparable values. That was not the case before 2009 (different sample collections conditions, transportations and analytical equipment…).

2. The blood data collected before 2009 were used for target purposes to “trigger” follow-up urine tests for EPO detection. This was the practice by the few International Federations which were conducting blood tests back then (UCI, FIS). Abnormal results were duly followed-up by the IAAF, whenever possible logistically.

3. One cannot draw any conclusion on whether or not an athlete has doped on the basis of one single blood value. The whole concept of the ABP is to monitor the variations of an athlete’s profile consisting of multiple values.

4. A member of the IAAF Medical and Anti-Doping Commission would not know whether follow-up tests would have been conducted or not.

5. When they are available, the IAAF has used the blood values prior to 2009 as “secondary evidence”, in support of an increased sanction in addition to the post-2009 profile to establish the athlete’s long history of doping. However these values do not have the same level of reliability and strength as the post-2009 values which were collected under strict and stringent conditions.

6. Finally, the IAAF has been using the pre-2009 blood data to conduct a prevalence study which was subsequently published (in 2011). It allowed the IAAF to identify the countries where there was a high-risk of doping and to adjust its doping control programme accordingly.

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