SHUT A LIGHT – THINKING LEADERSHIP IN ATHLETICS DOUBLE AN ATHLETE’S PROBLEM – AND THEN SOME!
by AIU President – David Howman
Less than a year after winning Olympic Gold in Rio in 2016, Kenyan marathoner Jemima Sumgong tested positive for EPO, a banned substance that became notorious during cycling’s drug-filled troubled era. EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells and in turn increases an athlete’s stamina.
Sumgong protested, claiming that he was given drugs and injections during a visit to a hospital in Nairobi after suffering severe stomach pains. Trying to corroborate his claim, Sumgong submitted photos of hospital records that he claims prove his story.
In times past, Sumgong’s statement was acceptable as it seemed, and the suspension would have been minimal if any sanctions had been imposed. However, these are different times for anti-doping; tampering (or fabricating or altering evidence to make people believe false stories) has become an unhealthy trend in global sport, and the research and resources that sport organizations dedicate to them are becoming more and more important. norm. fake medical documents; modified dates in emails; fake doctors, hospital appointments and treatments; fake dates and photos for a truck accident; and even an elaborate pretext for mixed drugs offered by Russian runner Kseniya Savina and her husband/trainer Aleksei Savin are examples of Tampering tales.
Since its launch in 2017, the Athletic Integrity Unit (AIU) has built an Investigations and Intelligence team highly skilled to operate anywhere in the world, using advanced methods from witness interview techniques to forensic analysis and digital imaging to examine false claims. . In doing so, the AIU revealed how far an athlete or a member of the athlete’s entourage would go to provide fraudulent information. In many cases, the investigative team gathered evidence that was subsequently submitted to successfully prosecute tampering cases.
When AIU investigators dug deeper into Sumgong’s story, they found that there were no records of Sumgong’s visit to the hospital where he said he was receiving treatment. Acting head of reproductive health at the hospital, Dr. According to Peter Michoma, even if Sumgong had received the diagnosis he claimed, it would never have been applied to treat EPO symptoms. He concluded that the hospital records were fabrications. Sumgong initially received a four-year ban for doping.
He later received a second sentence for tampering and doubled his ban to eight years. The Olympic champion will not compete again until 2027.
Sumgong is not unique. Take the case of elite middle-distance runner Savina. When Rus tested positive for EPO, she claimed that a maid who was setting a dinner table in her apartment had mistakenly mixed the medicine she was taking for back pain with her husband’s kidney medicine, EPO. She claimed she accidentally took the wrong pill. Her husband then produced paperwork confirming that she had been diagnosed with kidney failure at a clinic in Russia’s Crimea region. It was the AIU investigations conducted in remote areas of Morocco and Russia that conclusively proved that the evidence was false.
In 2021, Russian high jumper Danil Lysenko was banned for six years for making false statements and fabricating medical records in an attempt to avoid being banned for the Where Where violation. As part of their 15-month investigation into the Lysenko incident, AIU interviewed more than 20 people, performed digital forensics analysis on more than six terabytes of electronic data, and translated nearly 7,000 documents. Result: The AIU accused the Russian Athletic Federation of serious violations of the Anti-Doping Rules and accused various senior Federation officials of complicity, including its then-President and Executive Director. Both charges were upheld by AIU’s Disciplinary Court.
Ethiopian long-distance runner Etaferahu Temesgen Wodaj, who tested positive for EPO and testosterone in 2019. Wodaj submitted a medical report from a clinic that ceased to operate a month before his supposed visit. The doctor named in Wodaj’s report was not a real doctor. An eight-year ban on tampering was introduced, and suddenly a four-year ban tripled to 12 years. Former marathon world record holder Kenyan Wilson Kipsang boldly snapped a photo of a truck accident (which occurred three months after the date he stated) to try and justify one of his four Where-To-Find Faults between April 2018 and May 2019. One-year ban in July 2020 (backwards to January 2020) due to Change of Whereabouts and Anti-Doping Rule Violations. Meanwhile, compatriot Betty Lempus thought she had gotten away with her statement after a positive in-competition doping test in September 2021; Thanks to the evidence presented by a hospital official collaborating with the AIU and the Kenya Anti-Doping Agency (ADAK), for their lies to be exposed in June 2022. Lempus was banned for five years.
On the eve of the World Championships in Athletics, held in Eugene, Oregon last summer, two rising stars of American athletics, Randolph Ross and Garrett Scantling, were abruptly sidelined by temporary suspensions. In separate cases, both were subsequently banned for three years for Where-Found and Tampering violations. Both promising athletes tried to get away with altered emails to avoid a third Where-To-Find Error within a 12-month period. Ross was sanctioned by the AIU, while Scantling was banned by the United States Anti-Doping Agency as it was a national case. But in both cases, it was AIU’s diligent and careful researchers who noticed the tampered emails.
In previous years, the mentioned athletes would receive lighter penalties as their lies would not be exposed. However, times have changed, and the extra hypocrisy in Tampering is costing criminals longer and possibly career-ending bans.
I have spoken for several years about the diminishing reliance on testing and the growing role of investigations in the fight against doping. These AIU cases demonstrate pudding is the proof, combining our testing and results management functionality with our state-of-the-art Investigations and Intelligence department to proactively identify trends and detect and deter any integrity violations.
In the current decade it is not uncommon for sports organizations to engage in highly sophisticated and organized forms of cheating, and such stories are certainly not exclusive to athletics. With so much evidence, now is the time for every sporting organization to devote the time and resources necessary to rooting out evidence generation problems, as this will keep the integrity of high-level sport intact. This will clearly require more financial, human and research capital, as well as greater vigilance and the determined commitment of sports integrity organizations in the fight against tampering. We must be prepared to go beyond superficial scratching each time a disclosure is made for a suspected violation.
Gone are the days of silly excuses. Athletes will go to great lengths not to be caught cheating, but as we’ve seen, they will be caught and can increase their error by lying about it.
A clear message has been given – this will no longer go unpunished!
Monday, 17 April 2023