Gerard Hartmann: I would swear on my life Paula Radcliffe is clean
Gerard Hartmann, Paula Radcliffe's long-time physical therapist, has launched an impassioned defence of the marathon world record holder after a British parliamentary committee indirectly linked her to allegations of blood doping yesterday.
Though Radcliffe was not specifically named during the debate, Jesse Norman MP suggested London Marathon winners and "potentially British athletes" were under suspicion, which Radcliffe said "effectively implicated" her in the recent blood doping scandal.
Hartmann, the Limerick-based physical therapist who worked with Radcliffe for 14 years, says there is "absolutely no evidence she has taken drugs" and that abnormal blood readings are a regular occurrence among elite athletes.
"I would bet my house and all that I have that Paula Radcliffe never took a performance-enhancing drug in her whole athletics career," said Hartmann.
"Between 2001 and 2008 I worked with her almost exclusively and in that period, I never in my life saw anything but an athlete who deplored and fought against performance-enhancing drugs in sport. She was very against anyone who'd take advantage. Her principles are for clean sport."
After Radcliffe's identity was suggested in parliament, she quickly issued a statement denying her three abnormal blood values were a result of blood doping.
"I categorically deny I have resorted to cheating in any form whatsoever at any time in my career and I am devastated my name has even been linked to these wide-ranging accusations," she said.
Radcliffe said in her statement that the abnormal readings recorded during her career were due to dehydration after being tested immediately after a road race in hot temperatures, along with the effect of taking antibiotics and altitude training.
"I am 100pc confident that the full explanations and circumstances around any fluctuations in my personal data on a very small number of occasions will stand up to proper scrutiny and investigation," she said.
"Indeed they have already done so. In my case, numerous experts have concluded there is simply no case to answer. I have at all times been open and transparent, encouraging and supporting the use of blood profiling for many years."
While Hartmann acknowledges that he has worked with athletes he later found to have been drug cheats, he's certain Radcliffe is not one of them.
"I lived with her in a house in Font Romeu and in the same apartment in Albuquerque," he said. "My reputation is with this, and I would absolutely swear on my life that Paula Radcliffe is the most sincere, genuine, anti-performance-enhancing drug athlete I have ever come across."
Though Radcliffe's marathon world record of 2:15:25 is three minutes faster than the next woman on the all-time list, Hartmann is certain it was a clean performance.
"Her world record is the only crime she committed, because it's too good a time," he said. "But I know the hard work that was put into it, and I know she had that physiological capacity and that unbridled psychological mindset to do what she did."