IAAF response re EPO positive test at UTMB®

It has been a whirlwind 36 hours and I would like to make one thing clear, I have grabbed this positive EPO test at UTMB® by the horns not because I wish to humiliate the guilty runner, cast doubts on UTMB® or UTWT but because this is the first official EPO test of a runner in a trail running event (as far as I know).

I believe strongly that if we get it right NOW then this can only help in the future. For me and yes, I may be naive, but it appears that the current process has huge flaws!

See my original post HERE

The positives are obvious:

  1. Testing at the world highest profile event
  2. Finding a positive test ‘in competition’
  3. This test being confirmed, listed on the IAAF website and a ban put in place.

However, the test was taken on the day of UTMB® and ‘we’ the public have only found out on July 18th/ 19th and this was down to the eagle eyes of UK ultra runner Robbie Britton.

I picked up the case and contacted all the relevant people and within 24 hours we had a UTMB® release stating disqualification. See HERE.

The above are positives but how was it possible that the UTMB® did not know of this positive test? I asked for clarification and Michel Poletti at the UTMB® provided a response HERE.

Michel Poletti eluded to the facts:

  1. Indeed, the anti-doping procedure is so discreet that :
    The organizer has no information about the doping controls operated on his race.
  2. When a national or international federation make a decision, this decision is published on the web site of the federation, with no other announcement.
  3. Thus, if an organizer want to know something about the anti-doping controls which were made on his race, he should need to look every day on the web site of the federations…or to wait to be warned by someone else…

It seems crazy to me that a race (any race) would not be informed of a positive test. How are the race meant to action on this? Like Michel Poletti implies above, he or the race would need to check monthly, weekly and/ or daily for results to be posted? This is a major flaw and I hope that we can somehow instigate from this a better procedure so that races and those in charge receive results asap!

I must stress that I don’t think that this positive test is a negative thing for UTMB®, on the contrary, it’s a positive! They have had tests, the tests have worked and the sport is a little cleaner.

What I am worried about is the protocols and procedure.

This morning I emailed the IAAF and I also found out that AFLD provided the testing procedures at UTMB®. The procedures are HERE but importantly look at the screen shot below:


By the above ‘After Controls’ one has to assume that Gonzalo Calisto was informed of his positive test in September 2015 (the above says, within 3 weeks maximum.) Calisto lives in Ecuador so if he requested a B sample this would take us to the middle of October but lets assume the worst and it was November.

What has happened since November 2015?

Luckily as I was asking theses questions (somewhat bemused and flabbergasted) the IAAF emailed me and they clarified the following points:

Information regarding the positive test and sanction for Mr. Calisto was included in the June 2016 IAAF newsletter. http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/iaaf-newsletter

The athlete is also added to the IAAF list of athletes currently serving a suspension: http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/anti-doping

In this case, the Testing and Results Management process was performed by the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD): https://www.afld.fr/  Normally we would expect that they would have informed the organisers but in this case as it was handled at a national level we do not have confirmation of this.

As you will see, some major flaws in my opinion. This is bad for the UTMB®, UTWT and ALL runners who want to compete on a level playing field.

It’s time to lobby for a change and YOU as runners, followers of the sport or whatever capacity you have as a fan need to ensure that we all act now and make sure that the following happens:

  1. Positive tests are confirmed to the athlete asap
  2. Due process is allowed for a B sample
  3. The race, race director and management team are notified immediately
  4. A press release is issued by the race and or organisation
  5. IAAF, WADA, AFLD and so on list and make results public asap

I am still struggling to understand how it has taken till July for us all, UTMB® included to find out of a positive test and a ban that must have taken place in November, December at the latest.

I welcome your thoughts

15 thoughts on “IAAF response re EPO positive test at UTMB®

  1. As important is how race organisers should be able to keep track of athletes trying to get in to a race while being suspended. Is there any good way of doing that? Or just rely on the athlete themself respecting the ban? Not all athletes are as well known as a certain TdF 7*”winner” and would be hard to detect without cross referencing the entry list with a database of suspended athletes.

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  4. Thank you for flagging up this hugely important issue. It is imperative that our sport is clean. As a runner who never has been or will be ‘elite’ I’ve often thought that one of the very striking aspects of trail and ultra running is its sportsmanship. Lots of examples including joint winners in races but particularly when you look at support runners on record breaking challenges such as Ramsay Round and Bob Graham Round. Very often the current record holder is present, helping the challenger to beat their record. Astonishing ! In any other sport that just would not happen, here its normal. Cheating via drugs can only damage that and once properly and fairly established, (and thats important) wilful culprits should be banned from EVERY sport.
    Thanks again to you and the others who have ferreted this out and good luck with the campaign Matt

  5. Thanks, Ian. Another follow up you could ask: Was Calisto tested pre-race during runner check in? I think most potential top-20 contenders were tested before the race and the positive test appears to be the one taken soon after he finished? If he was tested pre-race, what was the result?

    It’d be pretty amazing if his first sample was clean. Meaning he checked in, went through doping controls, then used EPO and hoped it’d be out of his system by the time he finished the race.

    What a sad case.

    • Dylan, good point. AFLD who did the tests have been quiet. Then again, I’m not sure how much they can disclose for confidentiality reasons. Was Calisto a possible top 20? I believe his previous best UTMB was 19th. He ran 3 hours quicker to place 5th. Thanks for the input!

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