MONACO, November 28- Women’s world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe was “hounded remorselessly” over doping allegations that proved wrong, world athletics’ governing body said Friday.
“The circumstances in which Ms Radcliffe came to be publicly accused are truly shocking,” the IAAF said as it used the British runner’s case to defend its own handling of accusations of widespread doping.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said Radcliffe “was hounded remorselessly in the media for several weeks until she felt she had no option but to go public in her own defence”.
“She has been publicly accused of blood doping based on the gross misinterpretation of raw and incomplete data.”
Radcliffe admitted she was relieved to have been cleared after having her name wrongly dragged through the mud.
“It is a relief. It should never have come to this. The reason I spoke out was to protect myself and protect my name,” Radcliffe told BBC Sport.
“It was important that I took a stand knowing that there were other innocent athletes out there.”
An IAAF report said all of the tests which media reports described as suspicious were “entirely innocent”.
The IAAF particularly targeted Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper and German broadcaster ARD for criticism.
Radcliffe’s tests were among hundreds the media said were suspicious and that the IAAF had not properly followed up on.
The IAAF said it screened nearly 8,000 blood samples for potential markers of blood doping, and followed up with thousands of urine tests to detect the presence of rEPO which has led to 145 athletes being caught with the blood doping agent in their systems.
“The World Anti-Doping Agency and Dick Pound, the chair of its independent commission, have also stated clearly and unequivocally that no test data derived from the IAAF database prior to the adoption of the ABP in 2009 can be considered to be proof of doping. It would be reckless, if not libellous, to make such an allegation,” the IAAF said.
Radcliffe, who retired after this year’s London Marathon, made a public announcement denying cheating after a British parliamentary committee member made comments that appeared to implicate her.
– Not complacent –
A vocal campaigner against drug cheats during her career, Radcliffe also allowed the tests to be made public after claiming the pressure being put on her to release the dates was “bordering on abuse”.
She has always admitted to fluctuations in her blood test scores, but said they were down to entirely innocent reasons and she had been cleared by WADA.
The 41-year-old Englishwoman’s “off-scores”, the measures used to gauge an athlete’s blood values, in the three tests were 114.86, 109.86 and 109.3.
Anything above 103 recorded by a female athlete can be a trigger for investigation, but the threshold can rise for a number of reasons, including altitude training and tests taken immediately after extreme exertion.
The IAAF said that “there are clearly plausible explanations for the values in her profile that are entirely innocent”.
“For example, in two of the cases highlighted by The Sunday Times, the samples were collected immediately after competition (when dehydration causes a decrease in plasma concentration, and so an increase in reported haemoglobin concentration, even though there has been no increase in red blood cells).
“Any competent scientist would therefore immediately conclude that they should be disregarded. Furthermore, the IAAF followed up by testing Ms Radcliffe’s urine samples for rEPO, and her blood samples for evidence of blood transfusions, and all of those tests came back negative.”
The IAAF currently finds itself in its darkest hour, with newly-elected president Sebastian Coe battling to reform the organisation amid allegations of widespread corruption and evidence of systemic state-sponsored doping in Russia, which has led to a ban of one of track and field’s powerhouses.
Reiterating Coe’s comments at Thursday’s council meeting, the IAAF said it was “not complacent about doping in its sport”.
“It will continue to use every tool at its disposal to fight doping and protect clean athletes, and hopes that investigative journalists will continue to assist it by unearthing evidence of cheating for it to follow up.
“The IAAF cannot sit idly by while public confidence in its willingness to protect the integrity of its sport is undermined by allegations of inaction/incompetence that are based on bad scientific and legal argument.”