Peter Bol’s lawyers claim ‘blunder of epic proportions’ after independent labs find no EPO
Lawyers for the Australian Olympic star Peter Bol have blasted anti-doping body Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) as “completely wrong”, in a letter alleging that Bol’s sample which tested positive for synthetic erythropoietin (EPO) never actually contained the performance-enhancing drug.
The letter declares that Bol “is innocent and always has been”. It calls on SIA to publicly end the ongoing anti-doping investigation and admit its mistake.
Related: Peter Bol: what does an atypical doping test result mean for the Australian athlete?
Bol, who rose to prominence with his heroics at the Tokyo Olympics, tested positive for the prohibited substance in his A sample in January. But last month his B sample returned an atypical finding, which saw his suspension from competition lifted, although SIA’s investigation remains ongoing.
The saga has now been reignited by the letter, from Bol’s American lawyer Paul Greene of Global Sports Advocates. In the correspondence, sent to SIA last week, Greene alleges that the government body was “wrong” to conclude that Bol’s A sample contained synthetic EPO, “wrong” to conclude that the testing had complied with international standards, and “wrong” to continue the investigation “when there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr Bol ever used synthetic EPO”.
The latest development in the Bol saga was first reported by Nine newspapers, and has been independently verified by Guardian Australia.
The claims are based on two expert reports provided to SIA by Greene, from Professor David Chen at the University of British Columbia and four Norwegian researchers, Professor Jon Nissen-Meyer, Professor Erik Boye, Professor Bjarne Østerud and Tore Skotland. Both reports conclude, according to the letter, that “there is no evidence to show the presence of synthetic EPO in [Bol’s] urine”. Guardian Australia has seen the reports.
EPO is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the kidneys, but can be synthesised (sometimes referred to as rEPO) to aid performance and recovery in athletes. The controversy in the Bol case has highlighted ongoing disagreement among scientists about the best method to test for rEPO.
The SARS-Page gel test measures EPO levels across five different bands, relying on subjective visual analysis of the intensity of the bands, while the IEF-Page method uses isoelectric focusing. The initial positive test was reached using the SARS-Page method, and Professor Chen’s report is critical of the failure to undertake further testing.
Chen concluded: “The [data] showed absolutely no evidence for the presence of any rEPO in the two samples tested.”
The Norwegian research group reached the same conclusion. “We conclude that there is no scientific evidence provided by the laboratory which proves the presence of recombinant EPO in Bol’s urine,” they said.
The legal letter outlines a number of alleged errors in the laboratory testing process which led to the interpretation of a positive result. It alleges “this was not even a close call. Instead, this was a blunder of epic proportions.”
Sport Integrity Australia was contacted for comment.
Bol has returned to training, but will not compete in the Australian Track and Field Championships, which begin in Brisbane on Monday. He is understood to be eyeing a return to competition in Europe in May.
Bol himself says he was “innocent and waiting for it to be proved”.
“I knew it would come,” he told Nine newspapers. “The people who analysed it had no idea who I was, and it shows in detail how [ASDTL] messed up. I want them to acknowledge that. I don’t want to fight, but I don’t want to go quietly either. We want to improve the whole sport. You can’t have innocent athletes getting done for something they’ve never used.”