Australian track star cleared of doping

Australian athlete, Peter Bol, has been cleared of blood doping six months after failing a drug test.

The 800m runner, who shot to national fame at the Tokyo Olym­pics, has been under a cloud since testing positive for synthetic EPO in January.

After a long investigation, Aus­tralia’s sporting watchdog has said fresh testing of the sample was negative.

Mr Bol’s case has revived doubts over EPO testing, prompting the World Anti-Doping Agency to review its practices.

“I have been exonerated. It was a false positive like I have said all along,” Mr Bol said in a statement on Tuesday, calling the news that Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) would no longer pursue his case “a dream come true”.

The 29-year-old has previously said the allegations he was a drug cheat upended his life and shat­tered his athletic momentum.

EPO – or erythropoietin – is a naturally occurring hormone. But when injected in its synthetic form, EPO is a form of blood doping which has been employed by athletes – most famously Lance Armstrong – to aid stamina and recovery.

Mr Bol was informed he had failed an out-of-competition drug test for the hormone in January, and was provisionally suspend­ed – unable to compete or train – pending the result of a back-up sample.

That process is supposed to remain private, but a week later his result was leaked to the media.

His back-up sample then returned an “atypical” result in February – meaning it was neither positive nor negative. Given the rarity of two samples not match­ing, his ban was removed, but investigations by SIA contin­ued.

In a state­ment yesterday, SIA said “fur­ther analysis resulted in varying expert opinions” on Mr Bol’s initial sample, but it had ultimately been “reported as negative”.

As a result, the agency an­nounced it had closed the case.

SIA – which has been criticised by Mr Bol’s team and the media for its handling of his matter said it, and Athletics Australia had at all times adhered to the required pro­cesses, and stressed that “athletes in Australia should have confi­dence in the anti-doping system”.

But the EPO test itself has also been criticised – with experts tell­ing the BBC it is less precise than other drug tests.

In a statement, the World Anti-Doping Agency said it would conduct a review of its EPO pro­cedures. —BBC

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