EPO is a difficult substance to test because, unlike other synthetic drugs, it also occurs naturally in the body, making it difficult to distinguish what is synthetic EPO from what is naturally produced.
So far, Bol and Greene have only received a summary of his findings, showing Bol has tested positive. The test they ran on the urine – the SARS Page gel test – attempts to distinguish the synthetic from the natural EPO. It measures EPO levels in five bands. It turned out that Bol only had an elevated reading in one of those bands.
How does the WADA testing process work?
- The athlete will be notified by a doping control officer (DCO) or escort that he/she has been selected for doping control (testing) and will be informed of which Anti-Doping Authority he/she will be tested with.
- The athlete must report to the doping control station immediately (but may be excused after check-in for medal ceremonies etc.).
- The Athlete selects a urine sample collection vessel from a selection provided by the Doping Control Personnel. When a blood sample is collected, the athlete selects a blood collection set from a selection provided by the doping control staff.
- The DCO or companion will witness the submission of the urine sample when the athlete is ready to provide it. A blood collection officer (BCO) draws blood from the athlete using two vials (which become the A and B samples).
- The athlete divides his urine into the A and B bottles, thus saving a residual amount of urine in the sample collection vessel. The B Sample provides the Athlete with the opportunity to have a second analysis performed in the event that their A Sample produces an analytical negative result (a “Positive” result). When a blood sample is collected, the blood vials are placed in the A and B blood sample collection bottles. If the blood sample is collected as part of an Athlete Biological Passport program, only one vial may be required.
- The athlete seals the A and B bottles.
- The DCO measures the specific gravity of the athlete’s urine to determine if it meets laboratory standards. If the sample is too diluted, the athlete will be asked to provide additional sample(s).
- The athlete fills out the doping control form (DCF) either in paper form or in digital form at the DCO. The athlete will be asked to provide personal information, a list of substances or methods used and any comments they may have in relation to the doping control process. The athlete receives a printed or digital copy of the DCF.
- The athlete’s sealed sample is secured and sent to a WADA accredited laboratory. A blood sample collected as part of the ABP program may be analyzed by a WADA-approved laboratory. The laboratory copy of the DCF that accompanies the sample is anonymized and contains only the vial number, sport and gender of the athlete.
“In my experience, this is a very close indication of a positive test,” said Greene, head of Global Sports Advocates. “But we haven’t seen the lab results, we only have the summary sheet and we won’t get the full lab results until after the B sample results are back, and that will take months.”
The B sample will not open until February 1, when it will be tested in Australia, and part of the sample will be sent to a WADA lab in Cologne for separate testing.
It is rare, but there is a chance that the EPO level will be a false positive and only naturally produced high levels of EPO will be recorded.
The problem for Bol is if the tests confirm elevated EPO levels to illegal levels, or worse, the presence of synthetic EPO, then it can only come from injections. There is no known random way by which it gets there.
Bol had his blood tested ten times last year. His urine was drawn 16 times for testing. He returned a positive test from an out-of-competition urine test on October 11 last year. Athletes can be tested any day of the year, not just “in competition”, i.e. the days before or immediately after the races. This was a test conducted just five days after training resumed and months before racing in competition.
Some in athletics found the timing odd and argued that if, for argument’s sake, you were a cheater injecting EPO, why would you do it just five days into a new block of training and miles away from competing?
“This will be decided by the scientists and the scientific evidence, but yes, typically an athlete will take EPO before a competition to improve their performance,” Greene said. “It’s not like when they’re lying on the beach like Peter at the end of their break.
When he was informed of his positive test, it came somewhat surprisingly by officials from Sport Integrity Australia, who had come to his home from Canberra to hand him a document informing him he had failed the test. Athletes and their sporting agency are often informed by e-mail.
Integrity officers came to Bol’s home with the news and asked for his phone, laptop, iPad, or other device he owned so they could examine his internet search history, calls, and message history for incriminating evidence of discussions, purchases, and investigations about Doping or contacts that could be suppliers.
Bol handed it over and will also voluntarily provide bank details to verify payments have been made to anyone for drugs.
After learning of the positive result, Bol’s coach Justin Rinaldi contacted Sport Integrity Australia and volunteered his phone and laptop as well as Templeton’s and asked them to check their devices. Histories or deleted messages or calls can still be checked and they wanted authorities to be satisfied that there was no discussion, plan for doping or drug purchase.
Days after the news broke, Bol remains confused and incredulous. He released a statement immediately after Athletics Australia broke news of the positive test.
He says he can’t think of an explanation for how he could return a positive test because he’d never injected anything. He can currently only assume scientific errors.
“It was a huge shock. Surreal. It sinks in a bit over the days. It’s still a shock. But you have to deal with it and I’ll do what I can,” said Bol Age and Sydney Morning Herald On Sunday.
“People across Australia will be disappointed and some may feel let down. This hurts me deeply. And it hurts that there’s not much I can do about it right now, other than to say in the strongest possible terms that I’ve never done what they’re accusing me of.
“It means a lot to me to have the support I get from so many sectors, from the athletics world in Australia but also from so many I know overseas. And so so many people, sometimes quite by accident, have reached out to me or my coach or my manager. It means a lot to me at this difficult time…it’s very nice, I really appreciate it. ”
What’s next for Bol’s B sample?
- The B sample will open on February 1st. The sample is shared. Half remain in Australia for testing; the other half goes to Cologne. This is standard, double checking to avoid lab errors.
- Bol’s team has requested that the B sample undergo two tests at each location. First the SARS Page gel test – the same five band test that the A sample was subjected to.
- The second test is the IED test. This is a test that the WADA document for EPO also recognizes as a legitimate test for EPO.
The popularity that came from exceptional, breakthrough performances on the world stage at the Tokyo Olympics, where he finished a close fourth and then won silver at last year’s Commonwealth Games, elevated his status. Adidas, Longines and Voost Vitamin Company all discontinued him. He was the West Australian nominee for Young Australian of the Year and was due to fly to Canberra on Monday to announce the winner this week. He won’t win it now.
Those in Bol’s training program who are incredulous about the positive test said many things about the positive result weren’t calculated for them. It didn’t correlate with the person they knew and trained with, the breezy athlete who lacked, if anything, the “everything it takes” mentality to be the best in the sport.
He did not achieve drastically better results. In 2018 he ran a personal best of 1:44.56 for the 800m in Stockholm. It took him four years to improve on that time, and when he did it was by half a second.
Before he broke through with his fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics – missing a medal by just 0.53 seconds after running slower than his run – Bol had a small profile and salary as an athlete. He was on starvation wages.
The cost for Bol to defend this case will be ruinous; To pay attorneys and medical experts to fight it to the required length, he reckons it will cost more than $250,000. Not challenging would be just as ruinous; financially, defamatory, professionally and mentally.
“The reality is if we win this hearing they will appeal and if they win we will appeal, so it’s not going to be a short process. And WADA has unlimited resources for legal teams and experts while the athlete [does not]’ said Greene.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/athletics/it-hurts-bol-says-he-is-a-victim-of-flawed-system-20230122-p5ceju.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Bol says he’s a victim of ‘faulty system’