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The case of Konak v IOC demonstrates the tough line on doping taken by the CAS, the impact of new testing techniques on old samples, and the consequent long reach of anti-doping sanctions, here resulting in the revocation of an Olympic medal from as long ago as 2008.

Sibel Ozkan Konak is a Turkish weightlifter who was awarded the silver medal in the 48 kg event at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Her urine sample from the Games was re analysed in 2016, and showed the presence of Stanozolol metabolite, which was in 2008 and which remains a banned substance under the World Anti-Doping Code.

The IOC Disciplinary Commission accordingly found the athlete to have committed an anti-doping rule violation (an ADRV), disqualified her from the 2008 event, and ordered her to return her silver medal.  The athlete appealed to the CAS.

The athlete contended that she had not taken the banned substance deliberately.  She argued that it must have entered her body via a contaminated whey protein supplement that she took as part of her training regimen.  She also argued that the amount of metabolite found was too small to have affected her performance.  Amongst other arguments, she also offered to reveal “sensitive information” about the Turkish Weightlifting Federation in return for a deal (the IOC commented in response that this was an odd stance to take given the athlete’s denial of the case against her).

Sole Arbitrator Michael Beloff QC (of Blackstone Chambers) gave these arguments short shrift.  The presence of Stanozolol was a basis for an automatic finding of an ADRV, and was also an automatic basis for sanctions of the kind imposed by the IOC.  Thus the arguments about how the metabolite came to be in the athlete’s system, and to what extent the athlete was at fault, were immaterial.   The appeal was dismissed.  The sole consolation for the athlete was that the arbitrator rejected the IOC’s request that she pay the costs of the appeal.

The arbitrator added the comment “that the ability to reanalyse samples with the benefit of advanced techniques, reflected in this case, is a valuable weapon in the battle against doping in sport and should further deter athletes from deliberate cheating and further encourage them to take care not inadvertently to ingest prohibited substances.”

This case is one of many arising from the Beijing Olympics, with the IOC announcing a large group of cases in May 2016 and a further group in November 2016.  Athletes whose use of prohibited substances may have escaped detection in previous tests may have cause to feel nervous about newly effective testing techniques, and the resolve of sports disciplinary bodies to reach back in time to uncover doping offences.

The full judgment can be read here.