Turkey is facing a possible banishment from August’s track-and-field World Championships in Russia, as the country is currently embroiled in one of the largest performance-enhancing drug scandals in recent memory.
According to Simon Hart of The Telegraph, “dozens” of athletes tested positive for banned substances as part of an anti-doping raid performed by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The Turkish athletes, who were under major suspicion by the IAAF for cheating, were tested during last month’s Mediterranean Games. While the names of those who allegedly took banned substances have not been revealed, the scope of the investigation is expected to reveal rampant malfeasance by Turkish athletes.
“We’re talking about a lot of athletes,” a senior athletics instructor said to The Telegraph. “It could be as many as 30.”
The 14th World Championships will take place from August 10-18 in Moscow. The biennial event is organized by the IAAF and considered one of the most preeminent outdoor track-and-field championships. This year’s World Championships are one of the first major events to bring the track world’s best and brightest to the center stage since the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Turkey rarely has success on the international track stage. The Turkish team has only three medals in the history of the World Championships.
However, recent success by some notable athletes has led to some performance-enhancing drug suspicion and positive tests. Asli Cakir Alptekin, the 1,500-meter champion at last year’s Olympics, could face a lifetime ban after abnormalities were found in her blood in May. Alptekin had already tested positive and served a two-year ban once prior.
No formal announcement has been made by the IAAF due to the nature of the investigation. Only the athletes’ “A” samples have been tested at this time, meaning the testing is still ongoing. The investigators will now test the “B” samples of the athletes who allegedly cheated in order to confirm their initial findings.
In a statement given to Reuters’ Mitch Phillips, the IAAF has acknowledged that it was aware of the media speculation and admitted to heightening the spotlight on Turkey.
“Following concerns highlighted by abnormal biological passport values the IAAF, with the national anti-doping agency, intensified the testing programme in Turkey, the results of which remain on-going in accordance with IAAF Rules,” the statement read.
Biological passports are a more sophisticated way of testing for performance-enhancing drugs. Rather than testing each sample individually, it cross-references them against a normalized level for the athlete.
The Turkish Olympic Committee also released a statement, noting they would cooperate fully with the IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency
The NOC of Turkey and the Turkish government have a zero-tolerance policy on doping in sport and therefore we have been cooperating, and will continue to cooperate, fully with all relevant investigations to resolve these cases as quickly and decisively as possible. The recent doping discoveries have been fully assisted by the Turkish National Anti-doping Agency, who have been working closely with the IAAF and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA)
Istanbul is one of three finalists for the 2020 Summer Olympics, and a doping scandal could put the country in jeopardy of losing that bid. Tokyo and Madrid are the other two cities vying for that coveted spot.
There is no word on when the IAAF will receive the “B” tests back from the lab, at which point it would be able to levy suspensions.
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