LONDON (AP) — Seventeen track and field athletes face possible bans after being charged with doping violations uncovered by the sport's blood-profiling program, an IAAF official said Wednesday.
Thomas Capdevielle, the medical and anti-doping results manager of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said a total of 36 cases have been identified so far since the biological passport program went into effect in 2009.
Speaking at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference in London, Capdevielle said 19 athletes have already been suspended by the IAAF and 17 cases "are currently under proceedings." "That's a significant number in quite a short period," he said in a separate interview with The Associated Press. "There could be more to come."
In the 19 cases completed so far, the athletes all received bans of two or four years, Capdevielle said. Of the others, the IAAF has charged the 17 athletes with doping and their cases are going through the disciplinary process. He declined to give details but said the athletes are from endurance events.
Capdevielle said sanctions for the 17 could be announced at any time, depending on the length of the hearings and any appeals. "It's more complicated than a standard urine positive so it takes longer to complete the process," he said.
In addition, the IAAF is investigating two cases of steroid use uncovered in the blood profiles, Capdevielle said. In a separate issue, he said the IAAF is working on setting up a mobile doping lab in Kenya to make it easier to test the country's famed long-distance runners. Kenya said last year it was investigating accusations of doping among its distance runners and asked the World Anti-Doping Agency and police for help.
Capdevielle said the IAAF monitors about 150 Kenyan athletes in the biological passport program. He said the federation hopes to have a testing facility in place in the El Doret region by the end of the year which could also be used to test athletes from Ethiopia.
The passport system monitors an athlete's blood markers over time to check for variations that indicate doping, meaning athletes can be found guilty and sanctioned without a positive test. Cycling and swimming also use the system, and tennis announced this week it was adopting the program.
The use of EPO and other blood-boosting drugs enhances an athlete's endurance by stimulating the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells. Last year, the IAAF suspended six athletes from biological passport tests ahead of the London Olympics. The highest-profile athlete was Moroccan marathon runner Abderrahim Goumri, a runner-up at the Chicago, London and New York marathons and winner of the 2011 Seoul International Marathon.
The five others were Greek steeplechaser Irini Kokkinariou, Turkish distance runner Meryem Erdogan and Russian long-distance runners Svetlana Klyuka, Nailiya Yulamanova and Yevgenina Zinurova. Earlier last year, Portuguese long-distance runner Helder Ornelas became the first athlete suspended under the passport program.
In a separate case last week not involving the blood profiling, the IAAF said six athletes from Russia and Belarus — including three gold and two silver medalists — were caught for doping in retests of their samples from the 2005 world championships in Helsinki. Shot put champion Nazdeya Ostapchuk of Belarus, who was also stripped of her London Olympic gold medal for doping, was one of the six.
While the focus on the biological passport and blood testing is on endurance events, Capdevielle said the IAAF hopes to expand the program to speed and power events, which are more associated with steroid use.
While all athletes at the 2011 worlds in Daegu, South Korea, were subjected to IAAF blood testing, Capdevielle said he hopes to implement a similar program for this summer's worlds in Moscow.