Exclusive: London 2012 athletes escape sanction for missing blood test appointments

Wednesday, 26 September 2012
By David Owen

london 2012_blood_test_26-09-12September 26 - A number of competitors at the recent 2012 Olympic Games in London missed appointments for blood tests without incurring sanctions, it has emerged.

The disclosure comes in the Independent Observer (IO) report on the anti-doping programme at the London 2012 Games that was published this week by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The nine-strong IO team monitored all aspects of the anti-doping programme in London, assessing its effectiveness and tabling recommendations for improvements.

The problem came with blood tests relating to the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), a process used by some sports to monitor changes in the blood profiles of individual athletes over time.

The report states: "Given that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) deferred to the relevant IF (International Federations) the responsibility to notify athletes of these tests, athletes were obliged to report for testing at a particular time and place.

"It was observed that in some instances athletes failed to 'report' to doping control at the assigned time.

"As no written procedure was available for doping control staff in these situations, no consequences for failing to appear seemed to be enforced by the IOC or relevant IF."

The observers accordingly recommend that advance notice ABP testing only be carried out in "very specific situations".

They note: "Conducting tests with advance notice opens the door to possible manipulation of the sample provided..."

Athlete Biological_Passport_ABPAthlete Biological Passports appear to be the root cause of the missed blood tests at London 2012

Asked to clarify the statement in the report, WADA told insidethegames that there were "a number of appointments for ABP tests that athletes failed to meet during the Olympic Games".

WADA confirmed there were "no consequences" for athletes who missed an appointment for an ABP test, but said it understood that "most of them" were tested "at a later date during the Games".

The report's disclosure may raise new questions about the efficacy, and cost-effectiveness, of the ABP as a weapon in the battle against drug cheats.

Professor Carsten Lundby, a Swiss-based blood doping expert, told insidethegames earlier this year that the ABP's "ability to reveal EPO doping is virtually zero".

The IO report tables a number of further recommendations relating to issues such as athletes' whereabouts information and therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) whereby athletes with particular medical conditions may legitimately resort to otherwise prohibited medicines to treat them.

On these TUEs, the observers assert that the IOC might "usefully look at developing a systematic approach, including considering the application of sanctions for non-compliance, to ensure that all (National Olympic Committees) make available the TUEs of their athletes well in advance of the Games".

At London 2012, the report says, "it would appear that many athletes either did not advise the IOC or their NOC of their TUE".

One laboratory finding, indeed, is said to have "found that an athlete in fact had a legitimate TUE negating the finding although the IOC had not been advised earlier".

On athletes' whereabouts, the report recommends that the IOC "consider the application of sanctions to ensure that all NOCs provide whereabouts information of their athletes no later than two weeks prior to the start of the Period of Olympic Games".

This followed deficiencies in the quality or quantity of some of the whereabouts information provided at London 2012.

The report can be read here.

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