Losing Bol would be "hammer blow" for Australian Athletics
Prominent sports doctor Peter Larkins believes losing Peter Bol would be a hammer blow for Australian athletics.
Athletics Australia sent shockwaves through the sporting world when they announced on Friday afternoon that Bol, who finished fourth in the 800m at the Tokyo Olympics last year, had been provisionally suspended after returning a positive out-of-competition drug test for the banned substance EPO.
Dr Larkins said EPO had an established reputation as a performance enhancer.
“It’s been around since the 1980’s to boost red blood cells in the body for endurance sports, like triathlon and distance running and marathon and rowing, it’s not a sprinter’s or a bodybuilder’s or a weightlifter’s type drug,” Dr Larkins told Sports Breakfast.
“It’s quite normal that the athlete claims innocence. Peter’s such a lovely guy and you hope there’s some weird error here that we have to find out about, but EPO is via injection, it’s used in the medical world to increase blood cell production in people with kidney disease, but it’s been used in sport, Lance Armstrong was probably the most high profile person who denied it for seven years.
“Once you have an EPO test, it’s either natural EPO, which we all produce every day because our red blood cells are being produced every day, or it’s abnormal or so-called synthetic, and the difference is easily detectable, so when it’s synthetic EPO, it’s got to come from an outside source.”
Bol will now have a stored segment of his initial sample tested within the next month, with Dr Larkins saying it was important to let the legal process play out before speculating about potential sanctions.
“It always frustrates me that the sample takes such a long time to analyse, having been put under the spotlight and the incredible mental pressure, you’d want to know today or tomorrow, but there’s a lot of legal processes,” he said.
“That B sample determines the rest of his career and the rest of his reputation, so hopefully within the next week or two, that B sample will be at the laboratory.
“It’s analysed again with a specific look at the EPO content. If it comes back positive, well there’s the headline, if it comes back negative, he’s basically exonerated, and unfortunately, it will have to be explained why it was an abnormal test in the first place and an incorrect test.”
Dr Larkins, a former elite-level steeplechaser, said he was hoping Bol’s name would be cleared.
“Australia’s got probably the most frequently drug-tested athletes in the world, whether we’re talking footy, talking Olympic sports, we’re way ahead of other countries like China and Russia, I can tell you, in our internal surveillance,” he said.
“The athletes are very familiar with the testing process, and clearly he’s had many, many, negative tests, because you get a pattern, you can see what the normal level of products in a person’s blood or urine is.”
Bol released a statement after the news broke proclaiming his innocence, saying he had never researched or come into contact with synthetic EPO and had turned over his devices to investigators to prove it.