Drug cheats are pushing the boundaries in athletics

New season starts amid flurry of failed tests – notably in Russia, who will host World Championships

The international outdoor athletics season kicks off in Doha on Friday with the first Diamond League meeting of 2013. But a litany of failed drugs tests has acted as an unwanted precursor, with Russia's Yelena Arzhakova and Darya Pischalnikova the most recent high-profile athletes to be handed bans.

On Friday, Turkey's Asli Cakir Alptekin, the women's 1500m Olympic champion, was charged with a doping offence and faces a lifetime ban. She was banned in 2004 for failing a drugs test.

It led the British 800m runner Lynsey Sharp to suggest that doping in athletics was "a huge problem", adding: "There's a lot of people being caught but it's nothing compared to the amount of people getting away with it."

There are currently 240 men and women who are banned from athletics, from 52 countries and, as our world map shows, there are some countries where bans are markedly more common than others.

Spotlight on the top five

India: 51 banned athletes

There is major concern that using prohibited substances in athletics is widespread at every level after 11 athletes were caught doping at the 2012 National Schools Championships.

India is far from an athletics powerhouse, but claimed 4 x 400m relay gold when Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Since then, three of that winning quartet have failed drugs tests.

Indian athletes have tried to argue against their bans, claiming they had unknowingly taken banned substances at the behest of their coaches. The Indian sports lawyer Lovely Dasgupta warned: "They don't know what they are eating or what they're just consuming. They just know the coaches have given them something and, if they don't listen to their coaches, somebody else will take their place in the team."

Russia: 38 banned

Officials from the host of this year's World Championships have stepped up their fight against doping, which has led to a virtual tsunami of failed tests.

Valentin Balakhnichyov, the president of the Russian athletics federation (VFLA), warned last month: "Don't be surprised if you hear about a few more suspensions coming our way," before adding: "It's simple arithmetic: the more you test, the more people are likely to be caught. "Together with the Russian anti-doping agency [Rusada], we do more drugs tests than any other country in the world. Last year we conducted 3,500 tests and this year we plan to do over 4,000 tests in and out of competition."

The level of failed doping tests led the UK Athletics head coach, Peter Eriksson, to call for "greater investigation" into the sport in Russia, while Britain's former long-jumper Jade Johnson said Moscow "did not deserve" to host the World Championships.

Kenya: 13 banned

John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), said there was a "cloud hanging over them". He said: "For some time, we have been very concerned about the accusations of doping there," going on to describe Kenya as "a location of choice for dopers".

There is no Kenyan anti-doping agency and just one laboratory for that purpose in the whole of the continent – based in South Africa.

However, David Okeyo, the secretary-general of Athletics Kenya, insisted the problem was not widespread. "As far as the cases we've come across are concerned, 90 per cent are the drugs that somebody is taking maybe to treat asthma," he said.

United States: 12 banned

The banned athletes in the US range from the sprinter Shawn Crawford, who was recently suspended for not complying with out-of-competition testing, to a 64-year-old Masters runner, Roger Wenzel, who tested positive for modafinil, a prohibited stimulant.

Last year, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) tested 488 athletes a total of 1,542 times. The unlikeliest subject was a relatively unknown long-distance runner, Dathan Ritzenhein, who was tested 21 times during 2012.

Usada were also responsible for some of the positive tests of Kenya's athletes after being asked to administer the tests at last year's Olympic trials in Eugene.

Great Britain: Four banned

Britain, 14th equal of 52 countries in which athletes are banned, is by no means exempt in terms of doping in athletics. Perhaps the most high-profile case is that of the shot-putter Carl Fletcher, who at the end of 2011 was handed a four-year suspension and sentenced to nine months in prison for supplying a number of anabolic steroids.

The other three banned athletes are sprinter Bernice Wilson (four-year ban after testing positive for anabolic steroids), javelin thrower and coach Ian Burns (four-year ban for possession of multiple substances), and shot-putter Mark Edwards (three years after testing positive for testosterone and clostebol).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer / App Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join one of the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Deputy Manager / Sales Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen in a Winche...

Argyll Scott International: Financial Accounting Manager

£300 - £400 per day: Argyll Scott International: I am currently recruiting on ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Based Sales Surveyor - OTE £40,000

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Based Sales Surveyor is...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?