Event organiser responds after newspaper reports that London race was won seven times in 12 years by athletes “who have recorded suspicious blood scores”
The London Marathon on Sunday again highlighted its “zero tolerance policy towards doping” following a report in the Sunday Times that the event was won seven times in 12 years by athletes “who have recorded suspicious blood scores”.
The statistics, which included 12,000 blood tests from 5000 athletes from 2001-2012, suggested a third of global championship medals in endurance events during that period were won by athletes with suspicious test readings.
The Sunday Times had asked “two of the world’s foremost experts on doping detection”, scientists Robin Parisotto and Michael Ashenden, to review the data.
Following the allegations, the IAAF released a response and described the published allegations as “sensationalist and confusing”.
But further allegations made by the Sunday Times have again made front-page news, with the newspaper claiming “The London marathon was won seven times in 12 years by athletes who have recorded suspicious blood scores that indicate they could have doped.”
Also among the newspaper’s claims are that “The winners of 34 big city marathons – one in four – should have faced censure or at least been investigated over evidence of potential blood-doping within their test results.”
The Sunday Times reports the organisers of the London and Chicago marathons have said that the IAAF and the national anti-doping authorities “failed to tell them that some athletes were competing with blood so heavily doped that it threatened their health”.
In response to the allegations, Nick Bitel, the chief executive of the London Marathon, said in a statement: “The London Marathon has always been at the forefront of the fight against doping. The race has a zero tolerance policy towards doping and athletes who record a positive test with a penalty of more than three months are banned for life from the event.
“We believe there are people in our sport who are cheating and everyone has a part to play to protect those who are not. We continue to be at the forefront of anti-doping measures for marathon runners as we are determined to make marathon running a safe haven from doping but we cannot do it all on our own and rely heavily on the IAAF.
“We are therefore very concerned by the allegations made in the Sunday Times today and we will be discussing the implications of the allegations with the IAAF.”
He added: “We must make very clear the process involved in testing athletes at the London Marathon. The London Marathon pays for testing to take place at the event every year. However, we are not responsible for administering the tests – that is done by the UK Anti Doping Agency. The London Marathon has spent tens of thousands of pounds on testing athletes and supporting the development of anti-doping measures over the years.
“The London Marathon does not see the results of the tests and is therefore only informed if there is an adverse result from a test carried out at the London Marathon. We have never been informed of an adverse test from an athlete tested at the London Marathon between 2001 and 2012, or subsequently.
“In 1999 the London Marathon was the first organisation to call for blood testing but it took until 2002 for the IAAF and other authorities to get this testing in place and it was immediately introduced in London. Since the advent of the Athlete Biological Passport being introduced to track blood tests over a period of time, these tests have become even more important. We are now seeing the success of ABPs. Liliya Shobhukova is an example of this: her original blood test was taken in 2009 and this led to her positive test and retrospective ban that has just been announced. The first blood test for Abderrahim Goumri was also taken in London.
“Since 2002 all invited athletes are subject to blood tests in the week before the race and the top three and other random athletes are then subject to urine testing immediately after the event. Again, the London Marathon does not administer these tests and does not see the results and is only informed if the tests are positive. The London Marathon was the first athletics event anywhere in the world to have blood tests for all of its invited athletes.
“As a member of the World Marathon Majors, the London Marathon (in a joint initiative with the other five member races) is responsible for the funding of extensive additional out-of-competition testing of a testing pool of marathon runners which was announced March 2015.
“The London Marathon has already announced that it intends to commence legal proceedings against athletes who have failed tests if they do not repay money that they have received from the event.”
On Thursday it was announced that Liliya Shobukhova is to be stripped of her London and Chicago marathon titles after the IAAF officially confirmed to events organisers that all competitive results recorded by the Russian marathoner as of October 9, 2009, have been disqualified.