Thursday 27 April 2017

Radcliffe: innocent athletes implicated in doping scandal

Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radcliffe

Paula Radcliffe has warned that "many innocent athletes" face being implicated in the doping scandal currently engulfing athletics following allegations of large-scale blood test irregularities.

Radcliffe chose to speak out after parliamentary committee chairman Jesse Norman appeared to indirectly refer to the three-time London Marathon winner during a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing.

Members of parliament have launched their own investigation into the allegations made by the Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD that hundreds of athletes had recorded suspicious results which were not pursued by the International Association of Athletics Federarions (IAAF) - something the governing body denies.

Radcliffe, who was a vocal campaigner against drug cheats during her career, said there was a danger of the data being misinterpreted for a number of reasons - and stressed her own had been cleared by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Radcliffe said in a statement: "Abnormal readings are not proof of guilt, yet many innocent athletes are being implicated and tainted due to the distorted interpretation of a limited historic dataset.

"The Anti-Doping system cannot be manipulated in such a way that innocent athletes are no longer protected from the misuse of stolen and leaked incomplete data, the misinterpretation of that data, and sensationalist newspaper exposes.

"I am 100 per cent 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 any proper scrutiny and investigation.

"Indeed they have already done so. In my case, numerous experts have concluded that there is simply no case to answer."

Among the reasons identified by Radcliffe for apparent discrepancies in her own results are medical issues, prolonged altitude training and immediate post-race testing - all of which she says can send the readings marginally outside what is considered the "normal" range.

Radcliffe felt compelled to emphatically deny cheating during her record-breaking career after Norman appeared to raise suspicions while questioning UK Anti-Doping chairman David Kenworthy.

Radcliffe said he "alluded" to past winners or medallists of the London Marathon and "in that period, aside from in the wheelchair race, it only could be me, so essentially he identified me".

She told Sky News: "Then people had free rein because of the parliamentary privilege to go ahead and name me in the press.

"At that point I am not prepared to be blackmailed by the paper in question any more on this matter and I am going to go out and defend myself.

"I wanted to avoid it because I did not want my name to be on the front page of all the papers.

"I definitely do not want my children to print their mum's name into Google and find that the first thing that comes up next to it is 'drugs cheat' or 'doper'.

"It is not something I ever wanted to happen.

"I will not stand by and not defend myself when I am put in this situation."

Radcliffe added: "If you are going to have a parliamentary hearing and raise certain questions, I really think it would have been normal for there to have been a representative of the IAAF - considering how they were attacked in the hearing - and myself there, to be able to defend yourself if you are going to be raising these questions."

Earlier on Wednesday Norman suggested the press had misinterpreted his comments.

When asked if he had sought to implicate Radcliffe, he told Radio Four's Today programme:d: "I don't think that's actually true.

"Nothing could be further from the intention of the committee than to have named any athlete.

"In fact no names were given, no allegations were made, no specific athletes were described, no test results were mentioned.

"I have no doubt that many others who believe in the importance of eradicating doping from sport are massively supportive of the hearings.

"It's absolutely right to raise the question of whether British athletes have been involved in some way, and what has happened is... the press pack, and it is a pack, it's a herd of ungulates, has taken this single snippet and run off to Paula Radcliffe and attempted to bounce her into making some kind of statement.

"I think that's very unfortunate."

Norman had seemed to refer to a prominent British marathon runner on Tuesday.

He asked Kenworthy during the House of Commons hearing: "When you hear that the London Marathon, potentially the winners or medallists at the London Marathon, potentially British athletes are under suspicion for very high levels of blood doping.

"When you think of the effect that has on young people and the community nature of that event, what are your emotions about that, how do you feel about that?"

Radcliffe reacted by saying: "I categorically deny that I have resorted to cheating in any form whatsoever at any time in my career, and am devastated that my name has even been linked to these wide-ranging accusations.

"These accusations threaten to undermine all I have stood and competed for, as well as my hard-earned reputation.

"By linking me to allegations of cheating, damage done to my name and reputation can never be fully repaired, no matter how untrue I know them to be."

Radcliffe also claims her blood results were reviewed following the Sunday Times articles by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which found no evidence of any impropriety.

Press Association

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