Scientists at heart of doping storm defend findings

By Martyn Herman LONDON (Reuters) - The two scientists whose analysis of leaked anti-doping data from the IAAF's database has thrown athletics into crisis, defended their findings on Wednesday after their claims were rubbished by the world governing body. Australian blood experts Michael Ashenden and Robin Parisotto interpreted data from 12,000 blood tests, involving 5,000 athletes, from 2001-2012, which was obtained by British paper the Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD. The two media outlets claimed the data pointed to widespread blood doping in athletics and that the IAAF had failed to act on hundreds of suspicious blood samples -- many given by Olympic and world championship medal winners. In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, the IAAF said the allegations were based on "guesswork". Responding to suggestions that they lacked sufficient knowledge of the IAAF programme, a joint statement pointed out that Parisotto had worked with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to review blood profiles and Ashenden was a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Passport Committee that devised targeting strategies for sporting federations. "Both advised anti-doping organisations on how to undertake target testing of athletes suspected of blood doping," the statement said. It also countered the IAAF's claim that a large proportion of the blood samples were collected before the introduction of Athlete Biological Passports (ABP) in 2009 and therefore could not be used as proof of doping. IAAF RESPONSE "The pre-2009 data is reliable, in fact by their own admission, the IAAF has relied on those data to extend sanctions against athletes," it said. "We followed the same procedure as IAAF expert panelists when reviewing ABP profiles, classifying results as 'likely doping' when we were able to confidently exclude all other potential causes or instead 'suspicious' when there was genuine evidence of blood manipulation however further investigation such as target testing would have been required. "We stand by the evaluations we submitted to Sunday Times and ARD/WDR," it added. The IAAF labelled the reports "sensationalist and confusing" on Tuesday, insisting the data used had not been secret and had been used in a report published by WADA four years ago. In response, the statement from the scientists said: "We note the IAAF's confirmation that the database is 'not a secret or hidden document in any way' and that the IAAF welcomes the opportunity to present to the Independent Commission. "We therefore call on the IAAF to give a public undertaking that it will immediately share the entire database with (former WADA chief) Dick Pound's independent review." The sport of track and field has been plagued by spectacular doping cases over the past three decades, involving some of the biggest stars in the sport, including Ben Johnson and Marion Jones, who were both stripped of Olympic golds. The latest storm comes just weeks before the world championships in Beijing and the vote for the IAAF's new president -- a race between Sebastian Coe and Sergei Bubka. Briton Coe has described the claims against the IAAF as "a declaration of war" on the sport. (Editing by John O'Brien)

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