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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Mike Hytner

Australian Olympic athlete Peter Bol fails out-of-competition doping test

Peter Bol competes at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
Peter Bol competes at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The 800m runner has failed an out of competition doping test. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

The Olympic athlete Peter Bol has been provisionally suspended by Athletics Australia after the 800m runner failed an out-of-competition doping test.

Bol, whose performances at the Tokyo Olympics marked him out as one of Australia’s brightest track and field stars, was informed last week that an A sample taken from him in October last year returned an “adverse analytical finding”.

The test result showed signs of synthetic EPO, a performance-enhancing agent that is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.

The national 800m record holder and Commonwealth Games silver medallist strongly denied having ever used EPO and said he was “totally shocked” by the finding. He has requested a B sample be analysed, as per Australian national anti-doping policy guidelines. That will happen in February.

“It is critically important to convey with the strongest conviction that I am innocent and have not taken this substance as I am accused,” Bol said. “I ask that everyone in Australia believe me and let the process play out.”

While suspended, the 28-year-old will not be permitted to train at a national, state or club level, compete at any level, coach, receive funding, use official or member facilities or hold a position with a sporting organisation.

Bol said he would cooperate fully with Sport Integrity Australia as he works through a fair hearing process, with his career “literally hanging in the balance”.

“To be clear, I have never in my life purchased, researched, possessed, administered or used synthetic EPO or any other prohibited substance,” he said. “I voluntarily turned over my laptop, iPad and phone to Sport Integrity Australia to prove this.

“Above all, I remain hopeful that the process will exonerate me.”

Bol was one of Australia’s stars of the 2020 Olympics, held in 2021, when he became the first Australian to reach an 800m final at a Games since 1968. A thrilling run in the final, which saw him lead the world’s best but ultimately miss out on a bronze medal by a whisker, captured the imagination of a nation.

He was in November named Western Australia’s Young Australian of the Year for both his athletic achievements and his work off the track. He also works as a coach, mentor, keynote speaker and has been recognised for his philanthropic efforts.

The CEO of Athletics Australia, Peter Bromley, said the adverse analytical finding was “extremely concerning” and “came out of the blue”.

“There are procedural fairness and investigative considerations that constrain how much we can say, and at this point it would be inappropriate for Athletics Australia or anyone else to speculate about the specific details or pre-empt any outcome,” Bromley said.

Athletics Australia is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code and the Australian National Anti-Doping Policy, and provides anti-doping education in partnership with Sport Integrity Australia.

“We fully support the highly effective testing protocols that exist to ensure that anyone who breaches the anti-doping policy is caught and appropriately sanctioned. Every athlete, coach and spectator wants and deserves a level playing field,” Bromley said.

“Our primary consideration right now is that the appropriate process is followed and that it is not undermined by inappropriate speculation.”

Bromley added that Bol’s welfare remained critical throughout the upcoming process and Athletics Australia would provide necessary support to the athlete.

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