An unidentified whistleblower has leaked the results of blood tests for thousands of athletes, raising concerns about the possible widespread use and illicit acceptance of performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics and other major sporting events.
The U.K.’s Sunday Times broke the story after receiving the secret results of 12,000 blood tests performed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on some 5,000 athletes. The whistleblower also reportedly shared the results with German broadcaster ARD/WRD.
According to the Sunday Times, the blood-test evidence exposes “the extraordinary extent of cheating” by athletes who compete in high-profile events. The data reveals that a third of all Olympic medal holders, including 55 with gold medals, had suspicious results and may have competed after doping. No Olympic athletes have been stripped of their medals.
The Sunday Times submitted the data to two experts who reviewed the tests. Australian doping expert Robin Parisotto told the Sunday Times he had never seen such an “alarmingly abnormal set of blood values” before.
The blood tests indicated long-distance sporting events may be especially rife with doping, much as the word of cycling was when Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times and was ultimately stripped of all his medals.
“So many athletes appear to have doped with impunity, and it is damning that the IAAF appears to have sat idly by and let this happen,” Mr. Parisotto told the Sunday Times.
Michael Ashenden, another scientist who reviewed the test results, called the revelations a “shameful betrayal” by the IAAF of its duty to clean up sporting events and maintain a fair and level playing field.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), blood doping is when athletes use certain substances or techniques to increase red blood cell count, which allows the body to carry more oxygen to the muscles, which boosts stamina and performance.
Doping is done by taking erythropoietin (EPO), synthetic oxygen carriers, and blood transfusions. All of these are prohibited by WADA and other sporting authorities. Abnormal results are generally considered those that have less than a one-percent chance of being normal.
The results revealed that Russia is the biggest doping offender, with “a remarkable 80 percent” of medal-winning athletes showing suspicious blood results at different times in their careers, according to the Sunday Times. Ukraine, Morocco, Spain, Kenya, Turkey, and others followed Russia in doping, the report indicated.
The IAAF issued a brief statement saying it is aware of the allegations and is working on a detailed response. It added that the allegations stem from “private and confidential medical data which has been obtained without consent.”