Following last week’s report by German broadcaster ARD that a third of all the medalists in the distance events at the Olympic Games and World Championships from 2001-2012 had blood values that were “highly suggestive of doping or at the very least abnormal”—a claim based on information that was leaked from an International Association of Athletics Federations database of 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes—the World Anti-Doping Agency announced on Friday it is launching an immediate investigation into widespread doping allegations in track & field.
“WADA is committed to protecting the confidentiality of athletes; and, therefore, has asked its Independent Commission to commence its investigation with urgency,” WADA President Sir Craig Reedie said in a release. “We are confident that the IAAF, which has formally agreed to full cooperation with the Commission with respect to its inquiries, is equally committed.”
Earlier this week, the IAAF, which vehemently denies covering up any wrongdoing and refutes suggestions of incompetence, responded that the allegations were “sensationalist and confusing.” The organization’s acting vice president, four-time Olympic medalist Sebastian Coe, took the allegations as “a declaration of war on my sport. I take pretty grave exception to that. This, for me, is a fairly seminal moment. There is nothing in our history of competence and integrity in drug testing that warrants this kind of attack. We should not be cowering. We should come out fighting.”
The ARD documentary, which was aired just three weeks before the IAAF World Championships are set to kick off in Beijing on August 22, alleges that blood doping was rampant in track & field, and focuses on events from 800 meters to the marathon. In the film, Australian doping experts Michael Ashenden and Robin Parisotto concluded that 800 of 5,000 athletes in question had “suspicious” blood values, a total that includes 55 gold medalists and 150 medal winners.
The results of the investigation are due to WADA’s president by the end of the year, unless it’s deemed appropriate to extend the mandate, according to the release.