Luguelín Santos, Olympic silver medallist, banned and stripped of 2012 world junior title

Luguelín Santos of the Dominican Republic, the 400m silver medallist at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has been handed a three-year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for falsifying his age in order to participate at the IAAF World Junior Championships (now known as the World Athletics U20 Championships), Barcelona 2012.

He has been stripped of the 400m gold medal he won at the Games and his period of ineligibility runs from 11 March 2023 to 10 March 2026, but at least he managed to keep his historic 400m silver medals from the 2012 London Olympics.

Age fraud

According to the AIU, Santos admitted to falsifying his date of birth to compete at the 2012 World Junior Championships. His passport stated that he was born on 12 November 1993 - when in fact he was born on that date in 1992, making him he was ineligible to compete at all. According to the 2012 competition rules, junior athletes had to be 18 or 19 years old on 31 December of the competition year. But Santos would have been 20. 

AIU Head Brett Clothier said: "Our ongoing investigations have uncovered a disturbing level of cheating through age manipulation that has skewed the results of junior athletics competitions at the highest level. In this case, a world junior champion was unfairly crowned and the rightful winner has been denied his moment of glory". 

"In addition, age manipulation raises serious issues that need to be addressed, including embedded cultures that inculcate inappropriate values in young people, as well as providing the means for athletes’ ages to be changed on national documents, and, ultimately, for ill-gotten victories to be celebrated. The AIU takes a firm stance against such actions and will vigorously pursue any such alleged violations," he added.

Santos was fourth at the World Championships in Beijing 2015. © Getty Images
Santos was fourth at the World Championships in Beijing 2015. © Getty Images

In June, Santos took to his social media page to express regret for his past actions, apologised to the Dominican society, and remarked that he would "fully respect" the AIU's final sanction.  

"I deeply regret what happened at the time and, without wishing to evade responsibility, I want to explain that in those years I was a young man under 18 years of age, with few resources, and little education, from Bayaguana, who simply followed the guidelines of those who guided me in my sporting career at the time," Santos wrote.

Three offences

The AIU stated: "Santos, now 31 years old, was charged with three violations of the 2012-2013 World Athletics (formerly IAAF) Competition Rules: Rule 141 (participating when ineligible); Rule 9.6 (engaging in corrupt practices in connection with athletics); and Rule 9.10(c) (failing to report any approaches or invitations to engage in conduct that would amount to a violation of Rule 9). He was also charged with violating Articles C.4 and C.6 of the IAAF Code of Ethics, effective as of 1 May 2012, by engaging in corrupt practices relating to athletics under Rule 9 of the Competition Rules".

"His fifth charge related to a breach of the Integrity Standard set out in Clause 3.3.1 of the World Athletics Integrity Code of Conduct, in force from 3 April 2017, for failing to act at all times with the utmost integrity and honesty by using a forged document to participate in international competitions from 3 April 2017," ut followed.

'Special passport'

The AIU confronted the athlete after noticing that he declared 1993 as his year of birth for competitions from 2010 to 2017, and used 1992 as his date of birth throughout 2018, based on a passport issued in 2018. 

Santos revealed to the AIU that he had been instructed by the Dominican authorities to obtain a 'special passport' issued showing his date of birth as 12 November 1993, to use for competitions, while the passport with his real birthdate is reserved for other official purposes.

The AIU said that Santos admitted to using the 'special passport' for the 2012 Junior World Championships and even provided supporting documentation to verify his claim. He was provisionally suspended by the AIU on 8 July 2022, issued a Notice of Charges on 22 December 2022 for the alleged violations, and then signed an Admission and Acceptance of the Violations in the Notice of Charges on 13 January 2023.

Immediately admitted

However, Santos took part in a competition on 11 March 2023 while still serving his temporary ban. He admitted this to the AIU on 28 June 28 2023 and his three-year ban will therefore start to run again from 11 March 2023. Santos' three-year ban was imposed in 2012 under the relevant Competition Rule (Rule 9), which provides for a range of sanctions between two and four years. The AIU stated that it had sought a four-year ban, but this was reduced to three years "when Santos promptly admitted the charges". 

Luguelin Santos 'saved' his Olympic silver at London 2012. © Getty Images
Luguelin Santos 'saved' his Olympic silver at London 2012. © Getty Images

Santos accepted the sanctions, which included being stripped of the junior title he won in July 2012. Nevertheless, the Olympic silver medal he won in London the following month remains unaffected.

Extraordinary case

"This historic case was decided under Rule 22.2 of the 2012-13 IAAF Competition Rules, which states that the athlete shall be disqualified from the competition and forfeit any titles or other awards from that competition," Clothier explained.

"However, unlike with sanctions for doping violations, there was no rule in 2012 that provided for the disqualification of future results in age group cases, so there is no basis to invalidate his Olympic result as this was not an age group event and no violation was committed there." 

In his social media post in June, Santos, who won two gold medals at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, hoped other athletes would learn from his mistake. After winning an Olympic silver medal in 2012, Santos won bronze at the World Championships the following year and he finished fourth in Beijing two years later. He went on to win gold medals at the Pan American Games and the World University Games in 2015. Santos was part of the Dominican Republic's 4x400m mixed relay team that won a silver medal at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.