The results have yet to be announced, but the IAAF’s recent targeted drug testing of Turkish athletes could reveal dozens of positive cases, a source told the UK newspaper The Telegraph.
If the rumors are true, Turkey may be barred from competing in the IAAF World Championships, set to begin on August 10 in Moscow.
“We’re talking about a lot of athletes,” a senior Turkish athletics insider told the Telegraph. “It could be as many as 30.”
Drug testers are still waiting for the results of “B” samples, but if they confirm the presence of banned substances already detected in the “A” samples, the result could be one of the biggest doping scandals ever to involve a single country.
As the Telegraph reports, the IAAF had good reason to suspect widespread doping on Team Turkey, as a number of top-tier athletes have tested positive in recent months. In May, Asli Cakir Alptekin, who won the 1500 meters at the 2012 London Olympics, was suspended for blood abnormalities, and that same month, star hurdler Nevin Yanit—a two-time European champ—was hit with similar accusations.
The bad news intensified last week, when reports surfaced that eight more Turkish athletes had tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.
For Turkey to be banned from the World Championships, the IAAF Council would need to determine that the country was guilty of either assisting with the doping or failing to properly monitor its athletes. While suspensions are fairly common—Tunisia was dealt such a punishment earlier this year, when it was charged with “government interference”—no nation has been suspended for drug violations.
Doping, of course, is hardly a problem specific to Turkey. The Telegraph reports that India tops the global list of drug offenders with 52 suspended athletes and that Russia follows close behind with 44, but both of those countries have much larger populations—and much more political influence—than Turkey.
However the World Championships situation plays out, the scandal doesn’t bode well for the Turkish bid to bring the 2020 Olympics to Istanbul.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg