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London Marathon chief publicly criticises IAAF following doping scandal

According to a Sunday Times investigation, 7 of 12 winners of the London Marathon did so under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs, proved by IAAF samples.

Running icon Paula Radcliffe at this year’s London Marathon, the last of her career

Nick Bitel, the Chief Executive Officer of the London Marathon, told BBC Sport that he was ‘disappointed’ with the IAAF. His criticism of the organisation comes in the wake of serious allegations of doping. 

According to English newspaper The Sunday Times, “7 of 12 winners” of the London Marathon did so with what it described as “suspicious samples.”

The paper alleges it obtained data about the athletes from the International Association of Athletics Federation, the world’s foremost athletics governing body, via a whistleblower, and this data was analysed by its own panel of experts, comprised of forensic scientists Robin Parisotto and Michael Ashenden. 

It also claims that athletes with the aforementioned ‘suspicious samples’ had claimed £4 million in prize money.

In a statement on a BBC Sport radio programme, Bitel described himself as “disappointed”, saying  the organisers had been “...doing more than anyone to fight doping in our sport.” He repeatedly criticised the IAAF for not following up on the measures taken by organisers at the London Marathon and said the only reason several of the athletes who had in fact been called out on their use of performance enhancing drugs had been ones tested at the Marathon. 

The official statement issued on behalf of the London Marathon: 

  • The London Marathon pays for testing to take place at the event every year. However, it is not responsible for administering the tests - that is done by UK Anti-Doping.
  • The London Marathon has spent tens of thousands of pounds on testing athletes and supporting the development of anti-doping measures over the years.
  • In 1999 the London Marathon was the first organisation to call for blood testing but it took until 2002 for the IAAF and other authorities to get the testing in place and it was immediately introduced in London.
  • The race has a zero tolerance policy towards doping and athletes who record a positive test with a penalty of more than three months are banned for life from the event.

As per Bitel, the IAAF was “not doing enough” to curb the participation of athletes who were involved in doping, and the organisation “needed to do more to stop them from starting.” He added it was often “too late” if and when the IAAF actually took any action against the athletes. He complained that the organisers themselves had no access to the sample results of athletes and thus was unable to take action independently, relying on the IAAF for this purpose. 

He also said London Marathon organisers paid for testing procedures, and the non-access to documentation was unfair.

For their part, the IAAF defended themselves with a statement issued through their spokesperson, who told press that "all the marathon organisers had a thorough explanation of what the ABP (Athlete Biological Passport) was when the IAAF engaged in joint blood testing with them.” 

In the statement, it said organisers entered into an agreement to “not receive results,” describing them as incompetent to interpret them.

The scandal has prompted WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, to institute an “urgent investigation”. 


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