Claims that more than a third of Olympic and world championship medals have been won by athletes with “suspicious” doping test results has left the World Anti-Doping Agency “very alarmed,” and will “once again shake the foundation of clean athletes worldwide”.
In data obtained by The Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD/WDR, it has been claimed that 55 gold medals have been won by competitors displaying suspicious test results, while at least 800 athletes have recorded blood test results “highly suggestive of doping or at the very least abnormal,” according to one expert.
The newspaper claims the data, which contains the results of more than 12,000 blood tests by more than 5,000 athletes, is the "biggest leak of blood test data in sporting history", which it says reveals the “extraordinary extent of cheating” by athletes at the world’s top sporting events.
It also claims to show that more than a third of the world’s fastest times in endurance events were obtained by athletes whose test results had triggered suspicion.
The data itself belongs to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It was leaked by a whistleblower and the claims have been aired in a documentary broadcasted by ARD entitled Top Secret: The Shadowy World Of Athletics.
The most controversial sports autobiographies
The most controversial sports autobiographies
1/10 Tyler Hamilton – The Secret Race
Hamilton, one of Lance Armstrong’s key lieutenants during his Tour de France victories, made headlines around the world when ‘The Secret Race’ finally exposed the doping culture that defined Armstrong’s success and cycling in general. The book helped to turn public perception against his former team leader for good, and contained the most graphic and detailed depictions of sustained drug-taking in sport ever published. Key Quotes: ‘It took the drug-testing authorities several years and millions of dollars to develop a test to detect EPO in urine and blood. It took Ferrari about five minutes to figure out how to evade it.’ ‘I didn't say anything. Lance was on a roll now. ‘I'm going to make your life a living ... ******* ... hell.’’
2/10 Len Shackleton – Clown Prince of Soccer
The original controversial football autobiography was penned by Sunderland legend Len Shackleton in 1956. The book is littered with criticism targeted at the FA and former clubs but became infamous for a chapter titled ‘The average director’s knowledge of football’. The page beneath was left blank. Key Quote: 'Chapter 9 – The average director’s knowledge of football…'
3/10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic – I am Zlatan
The Swedish superstar has never struggled for self-confidence, and Zlatan channelled his absolute self-assurance to produce one of the most brilliant, bonkers footballer’s autobiographies of all time. ‘I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ intersperses sections sticking the boot into Pep Guardiola with gleeful anecdotes of his utterly bizarre extra-curricular exploits. Key Quotes: ‘Whenever life’s at a standstill I need some action. I always drive like a maniac. I’ve done 325 kilometres an hour in my Porsche Turbo and left the cops eating my dust.’ ‘One time I got dressed in all black, Rambo-style, and took a massive pair of bolt-cutters and nicked a military bike.’
4/10 Herschelle Gibbs – To the Point
The South African batsman’s career was littered with incidents of drug-taking, womanising and racism, so his book was always going to arouse controversy. ‘To the Point’ vividly depicted his drink and drug abuse and orgies involving Gibbs and his international team-mates, as well as some customary mud-slinging over cliques of senior players (sound familiar, KP?). Key Quote: (subtly depicting a night on a tour of Australia in 1997/98) ‘It was one fat party. From mid-evening to the next afternoon. I enjoyed the company of … let’s say, more than one woman.’
5/10 Sean Long – Longy: Booze, Brawls, Sex and Scandal
Long, a mainstay of the all-conquering St Helens team of the late 90s and early 2000s, had his career tainted by a three-month ban for betting on his team to lose to Bradford Bulls in 2004. His book lived up to its straightforward title: beyond lifting the lid on a betting culture that pervaded rugby league, the book is awash with anecdotes of extraordinary drinking and seedy sexual encounters. Key Quote: ‘Me and Glees [Martin Gleeson] got our heads together and decided to bet on Bradford to win.’
6/10 Andre Agassi – Open
Agassi’s revealing memoir lifted the lid on his uncompromising upbringing and a career spent riddled with insecurities. Perhaps most notoriously, ‘Open’ included the revelation that Agassi used crystal meth throughout 1997 when his career was in a lull, leading to the star lying to avoid a drugs ban. Key Quotes: ‘I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.’ ‘As if they're coming out of someone else's mouth, I hear these words: You know what? **** it. Yeah. Let's get high.’
AFP PHOTO/Glyn Kirk
7/10 Paolo Di Canio – Paolo Di Canio: The Autobiography
Di Canio has always been, to put it mildly, a tad eccentric. Fortunately, he refused to hold back in his book, written in 2000, which contains everything from barmy tales of stabbing his brother in the back (literally, with a fork) to an impassioned defence of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, which later caused him trouble as manager of Swindon and Sunderland. Key Quote: ‘I am fascinated by Mussolini. I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose.’
8/10 Paul McGrath – Back from the Brink
McGrath’s book, which unflinchingly confronts his difficult childhood, alcoholism and multiple suicide attempts, is one of the most troubling sporting autobiographies ever written. The tales of McGrath’s epic binges – he once woke up in a caravan 15 miles from the team hotel, and would frequently play when drunk – are made all the more shocking by his total lack of glorification. Key Quote: ‘I vividly remember the Stanley knife and the blood pouring on to the floor. Come to think of it, I remember the au pair's screams too.’
9/10 Paul Kimmage – Rough Ride
A journeyman pro cyclist, Kimmage won the William Hill Sports Book award in 1990 for going against the sport’s ‘omerta’ and revealing for the first time the extent of drug-taking in the peloton. The book ostracized the Irishman from former friends and teammates but forced cycling to finally confront itself –Kimmage would later become one of Lance Armstrong’s fiercest critics. Key Quote: 'It was doping, no mistake about it, but it was only pigeon **** compared to what some of the others were doing. It bothered me, but this was my last Tour and I didn’t want to go out of it after two days.’
10/10 Roy Keane – Keane: The Autobiography
Keane has previous on the controversial autobiography front, after his first book landed him in front of an FA tribunal for bringing the sport into disrepute. Mick McCarthy was one of many targeted in Keane’s relentlessly angry tome, but ultimately it was his expletive-ridden admission of deliberate retribution on Alf Inge Haalaand that landed the Irishman in hot water. Key Quote: (On Alf Inge Haaland) ‘I'd waited long enough. I ******* hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you ****. And don't ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.’
Responding to the claims, Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said: “Wada is very disturbed by these new allegations that have been raised by ARD, which will, once again, shake the foundation of clean athletes worldwide.
“These allegations require swift and close scrutiny to determine whether there have in fact been breaches under the World Anti-Doping Code and, if so, what actions are required to be taken by Wada and/or other bodies”.
He said Wada’s Independent Commission will now investigate the claims, adding: “As always, Wada is committed to doing what’s necessary to ensure a level playing field for clean athletes of the world.”
Two leading anti-doping experts – scientist Robin Parisotto and exercise physiologist Michael Ashenden - have analysed the data for The Sunday Times.
They believe the leaked data shows more than a third of medals won in endurance events at the Olympics and world championship events were awarded to athletes who recorded suspicious tests.
The newspaper claims that none of these medals have been taken away from the athletes and alleges that seven British athletes have been found to have “suspicious” blood scores, one of whom is a leading UK competitor.
The data also showed that Mo Farah, who recently came under scrutiny following the alleged actions of his coach Alberto Salazar, showed no abnormalities in his blood test results.
It has also been alleged that 10 medals won at London 2012 Olympics were awarded to athletes with suspicious test results.
Mr Parisotto told the newspaper: “Never have I seen such an alarmingly abnormal set of blood values. So many athletes appear to have doped with impunity and it is damning that the IAAF appears to have idly sat by and let this happen.”
Mr Ashenden attacked the IAAF for failing to protect clean athletes: “For the IAAF to have harvested millions of dollars from the broadcasting of athletics events around the world […] yet only devote a relative pittance of those funds towards anti-doping, when they could see the terrible truth of what lay beneath the surface, is […] a shameful betrayal of their primary duty to police their sport and protect clean athletes.”
The IAAF has yet to respond to a request for comment from The Independent. The organisation told The Sunday Times that the newspaper is in “unlawful possession” of the IAAF’s entire blood-testing database of over 12,000 samples covering the years 2001-2012, “or at least a very substantial part of it”.
An IAAF spokesperson last week said the body has “always been at the forefront in combating doping – researching and implementing new analytical techniques and methodology”.
Additional reporting by Press AssociationReuse content