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Budapest: On the night Peter Bol returned to the track at the world championships and was run out in his 800-metre heat, the world doping police admitted the drug debacle that derailed his career, and his preparation for this event, was “a disaster”.
Bol came fourth in his heat in 1 minute 46.75 seconds. Given the year of turmoil, accusation and drama he has endured, it was hardly surprising he did not perform at his best. However, his good friend, training partner and national record holder, Joe Deng, though went through to the semi-final in a confident run at his first world championships.
There were mixed fortunes for Australian 800m runners during the heats at the world championships in Budapest. Joseph Deng (left) eased into the semi-final, while Peter Bol (main) missed out on a semi-final berth in his comeback race after his career was halted by a faulty EPO test.Credit: Getty
Clearly annoyed and upset, Bol walked through the mixed zone after his race without stopping to speak to any media.
He also refused all interviews in the lead-up to the world championships, relying only on social media to make a brief comment, saying he was pleased to be exonerated by a review of his initial doping ban.
He was angry with Athletics Australia for its role in the case that saw him provisionally banned, and named, after it was found he had produced a positive doping test, which was later contradicted by a second test of his sample, leading to his ban being lifted. A further review of his urine samples then found the first positive results for EPO should not have been called positive at all, prompting a review by WADA.
Bol did not attend the Athletics Australia camp in the lead-up to the world championships. He was in France and Andorra for a period for visa reasons and then went to Germany to train. He didn’t attend the Australian team camp in Montpellier and avoided contact with senior AA officials who reached out to try to pacify the situation.
Peter Bol finished fourth in his 800m heat, but the result wasn’t good enough to get him into a semi-final. Credit: Getty
AA chief executive Peter Bromley had spoken scathingly of the handling of the Bol case after a review found the runner should never have been provisionally banned in the first instance. However, Bol has not been mollified by the comments and remains angry with the national body.
Judging by his demeanour after the race, his anger has not diminished.
An hour before Bol raced, Athletes Integrity Unit chairman David Howman and chief executive Brett Clothier – previously head of integrity at the AFL – held a broad-ranging press conference where they described the Bol case as a disaster for doping authorities. They said were eagerly awaiting the World Anti Doping Authority’s review of what went wrong.
“The worst thing that could happen is what happened in that (Bol) case,” said Howman, who was previously head of WADA.
“What we must do is to ensure that the process can be reviewed and re-conducted in a way that doesn’t end up in such a disaster. It’s not fair on the athlete. We accept that.
“From our perspective, we have encouraged the World Anti Doping Agency to conduct a review of the EPO testing. It’s their responsibility. We didn’t partake in that test itself. It was conducted, as you know, by Sport Integrity Australia.
Australian Joseph Deng eased into the semi-finals of the 800m at the world championships.Credit: Getty
“What we have to do is ensure that WADA does its work in reviewing the whole process as they said they would, and I think the (sport) minister in Australia has asked them to do that. We are waiting on that review, we will partake in it if we’re asked.”
He added: “We do feel the distress that the athlete felt.”
Clothier told this masthead the Bol case was an outlier to their other EPO cases, and it was important to examine in detail what happened and how it went so wrong.
“Since the AIU started we have had a lot of EPO cases, we average about five or six EPO cases a year; they are not unusual to us. And we have never had any issue with our cases, with our prosecutions, so this case does come as a surprise to us. We need to understand the information,” Clothier said.
“WADA has a stringent process for accrediting the laboratories, and if there is any discrepancy between one lab to the next it is fully investigated.”
Meanwhile, Deng – Bol’s long-time friend and former Melbourne housemate who is rooming with Bol in Budapest – was thrilled with his nerveless performance in his major championship debut.
He slowed to the line to finish third in 1:45.48 and, as one of the first three to cross the line, automatically advanced to the semi-final.
Deng has had a remarkable two years. He broke the national 800m record, walked away from the sport, came back to running again, broke another national record and now finds himself in the semi-final at his first world champs.
“It has been pretty rough. I lost interest in the sport, I wasn’t interested any more. I had been doing it for a while, since like 2012 or earlier than that, and I think I just needed that time off. It’s been really good since then,” Deng said.
“It is awesome (having Bol back). It’s good having both Pete and I here, that is the first time representing Australia together, so it’s very good.”
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