Thursday 27 July 2017

Exclusive: I've nothing to hide, insists Rob Heffernan after 'Fancy Bears' leak

'I have all the evidence to show this is normal'

Race walker Rob Heffernan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Race walker Rob Heffernan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Rob Heffernan expressed surprise last night at his inclusion on a list of names released by Russian hacking group Fancy Bears which claims to reveal athletes who returned atypical findings as part of the athlete biological passport, a tool used by anti-doping authorities to monitor athletes' blood values over time.

Heffernan is one of just three athletes out of the 47 listed in the document whose profile was deemed normal after further review by anti-doping authorities, whereas the majority of the other cases were handed a varying degree of priority for further examination.

The document, along with dozens of confidential emails related to recent anti-doping cases, was released last night with a statement on the Fancy Bears website claiming they had been leaked by an official from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Heffernan is the sole Irish athlete on the list, which includes international stars such as Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Mary Keitany and Asbel Kiprop. When contacted by the Irish Independent last night and informed that his name was on the list, Heffernan welcomed the concluding comment about his case, which stated his blood profile was "now flagged as normal with the last sample".

Last night Heffernan said the probable explanation for the atypical finding was a test conducted moments after he awoke from hip surgery in April 2015. The adverse result, he says, was due to the presence of hydroxyethyl starch – an ingredient used in an intravenous paracetamol infusion he received during the surgery.

He was notified of the finding at the time by the IAAF, but was soon cleared of any wrongdoing after providing an explanation via his medical team. The details of the incident were outlined in his autobiography, which was published last November.

"It's not suspicious," said Heffernan. "This just proves everything is normal, so it's actually positive for me."

Heffernan previously released his biological passport data to the 'Sunday Times' in the wake of a doping scandal which engulfed the sport in 2015, with the experts consulted by the newspaper to analyse his readings deeming it a normal profile which bore no evidence of doping.

Heffernan, the 2013 world champion in the 50km race walk, believes this latest data supports his assertion that he is clean.

"I asked for my blood profile to be made public to show I have nothing to hide and this just clarifies that again," he said.

Heffernan has been one of the most-tested athletes in Irish sport for many years, and last night said he was tested 35 times by the Irish Sports Council in 2016.

"When something like this does come out, it's good I've been tested so many times because I have all the evidence to show this is normal," he said. "It's normal I'm going to be in that bracket to be tested a lot because I'm an Olympic medallist and former world champion and we have the strongest anti-doping system in the world."

The biological passport has proven an effective tool in the anti-doping fight in recent years, measuring an athlete's biological markers over time. However, a single atypical finding can occur for a variety of reasons such as illness or training at altitude, and anti-doping authorities typically require a series of atypical readings to establish an athlete has doped.

The leak, if confirmed to be authentic, appears to be the latest breach of confidential anti-doping information from the IAAF's anti-doping unit, but Heffernan is unconcerned about the potential risk posed to athletes' privacy by such leaks. "It doesn't concern me," he said. "I don't even look at that stuff."

Irish Independent

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