IAAF discredits UK Athletics research panel study

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The Independent Online

The International Amateur Athletic Federation on today discredited a British research panel's study on nandrolone that was used to clear one of its athletes of doping charges.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation on today discredited a British research panel's study on nandrolone that was used to clear one of its athletes of doping charges.

On Tuesday, 400-meter runner Mark Richardson was cleared by the UK Athletics - the national governing body of track and field - when its research panel concluded that dietary supplements combined with exercise can trigger positive results for nandrolone.

However, the IAAF, which may send Richardson's case to arbitration for review, says the study holds no water.

"It's not a valid study," said IAAF vice president Dr Arne Ljungqvist, who is also the IAAF's medical commission chairman. "It's nothing, it's a very minor report on a handful of individuals.

"A so-called study on four or five persons is not a study. I have to react strongly," he added, calling the study "irrelevant."

Ljungqvist was adamant that "this type of minor pilot test" would never be accepted as a serious scientific study and would "never qualify for scientific publication in the scientific world."

On Tuesday, both Richardson and European 200-meter champion Doug Walker, who have been facing doping allegations for nandrolone, were cleared to compete in Britain's Olympic trials in Birmingham next month.

Walker was given the go-ahead to compete at the national Olympic selection trials by a High Court judge in London. He was cleared a year ago by UK Athletics but later banned by the IAAF, which sent his case to arbitration.

Richardson was cleared by UK Athletics after its nandrolone panel concluded that the combination of exercise and apparently legal dietary supplements could result in positive findings of nandrolone.

Richardson's exoneration allows him to compete in the national Olympic trials, though the IAAF could intervene before then.

"The number of findings involving nandrolone has caused consternation throughout the sport's world and the work undertaken by ... (the) committee has been invaluable in the attempt to clarify the issue surrounding the substance," said UK Sport's director of ethics and anti-doping Michele Verroken.

"Their report has moved the debate forward a great deal, while narrowing the field of focus and exploding some of the myths."

But Ljungqvist said that all the UK Athletics' study revealed was a suspiciously high level of positive nandrolone cases in Britain.

"One interesting aspect of their so-called study is that when they investigated five persons, why did they find nandrolone in two of them?" asked Ljungqvist. "In other words 40 percent." He said worldwide the percentage was 0.1 to 0.3 percent.

"That's 200-300 times higher than the rest of the world. There is something wrong if so many of their athletes are testing positive. ... This is what they should be investigating."

The IAAF was also concerned about other procedures used in the study.

"Another aspect of that so-called study was that they claimed to check the food supplements," Ljungqvist told The Associated Press. "But what we have discovered in the past is that in one bottle of supplements, some pills analyzed may be free of any illegal substance, and other pills have an illegal substance. Pills from the same bottle.

"To just take food supplements is not enough for the study, you have to analyze all the pills. You may think the pills in your study are nandrolone-free, but they may not be."

UK Athletics has consistently given its athletes the benefit of the doubt in nandrolone cases, putting it on a collision course with the IAAF.

In similar cases, UK Athletics cleared former 100-meter Olympic and world champion Linford Christie, hurdler Gary Cadogan as well as Walker after they tested positive for nandrolone more than a year ago. The three were later suspended by the IAAF, which wants to review their cases.

"It's just one case after another, for various reasons, one more strange than the other, that are being exonerated at the national level," Ljungqvist said. "I've been getting the standard letter: 'We totally support the fight against doping, but in this case we totally exonerate this athlete."'

"They all 'support' the fight against doping but they aren't willing to do anything about it. It gets tiring and frustrating."

Nandrolone testing has been at the center of controversy following a rash of positive nandrolone cases around the world over the past year - producing a total of 343 positive cases across all sports.

The fact that several high-profile athletes from a range of sports have failed nandrolone tests in recent months threatens to overshadow September's Olympic Games in Sydney.