WADA lab errors falsely accused athletes of doping

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LAUSANNE: Egypt international footballer Hossam Ghaly and an American female marathon runner were falsely suspected of doping because of a Malaysian laboratory’s mistakes, according to a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling.

Ghaly was among three Middle East-based players who served suspensions because the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Penang wrongly reported positive tests for the steroid nandrolone, the ruling said.

The American runner, who’s not identified in the document, avoided a ban because athletics’ world governing body and United States anti-doping officials didn’t trust her test results. The lab failed to consider the possible effects of a birth control pill on her urine sample, the CAS report reveals.

The court panel of three lawyers on Wednesday dismissed the Malaysian testing center’s appeal against being stripped of its accreditation by WADA.

The lab’s mistakes demonstrated a "serious lack of competence," the ruling said. "Its errors had the propensity to cause harm. But for the initiatives of the athletes, and the investigations of other laboratories, the errors would not have been unmasked and the athletes’ careers interrupted, if not terminated."

Ghaly, a former player with Tottenham and Feyenoord, was with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr in February 2010 when the lab reported a positive test for nandrolone. He challenged the analysis but served a one-month ban before his innocence was proved by the WADA lab in Cologne, Germany.

The German lab also helped clear the unnamed US runner of a false positive from a December 2009 sample collected in Singapore.

"Both the IAAF and the USADA raised questions about the center’s ‘A’ sample certificate of analysis," the report said, adding that Penang staff later "reviewed the case and checked for pregnancy and the use of birth control pills."

Two footballers in the United Arab Emirates, Samir Ibrahim Ali Hassan and Hassan Tir, served eight-month bans last year before the Cologne lab cleared their names.

In a separate CAS verdict last year, Hassan was awarded 10,000 Swiss francs ($11,900; €8,400) in legal costs from the UAE anti-doping authority, the report said.

The Malaysian lab was the first of more than 35 labs in WADA’s worldwide network to be barred from conducting tests. It was suspended for three months in 2009 after failing to detect an anabolic steroid.

Since Penang was sanctioned last June, WADA has also disciplined labs in Tunisia and Turkey for failing to meet international standards.

WADA relied on its labs "to deliver faultless assessments" and maintain integrity in the fight against doping, the CAS panel said.

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