November 17th, 2011
Earlier this week several Finnish newspapers reported that Juha Lalluka, a key member of the 2011 Finnish World Championship team, tested positive for human growth hormone.
The shock and disappointment did not come close to rivaling the response to the positive test of Estonian legend Andrus Vererpalu last season, but Lalluka’s seemingly out-of-nowhere performances in Oslo piqued the interest of many.
There are several notable points to this unfortunate storyline. First, anti-doping efforts seem to be working – at least some cheaters are being caught. The anecdotal consensus seems to be that the sport is significantly cleaner now than it was five years ago.
At major events there is much less discussion about who is doping and who is clean. When someone does come up dirty, the reaction is generally one of surprise (though for many, not in the case of Veerpalu).
This is generally good. What is concerning, however, is that the results of Lalluka’s A-sampple was made public prior to the testing of the B-sample. That second sample has come back positive, so it is hard to feel much sympathy for the man.
But allowing the results from the first test to reach the public is a serious violation of the principle of innocent until proven guilty.
What if the B-sample came back clean, and the original positive test was an error?
Lalluka’s name and reputation would haev still been permanently tarnished. He would forever be remembered as another doping Finn, albeit one who beat the charges.
Regardless of the fact, that in this case, the B-sample did confirm the initial positive test, WADA, and national anti-doping agencies need to ensure that A-sample results are kept under wraps until the B-sample is tested. The court of public opinion is quick to judge, and when it comes to doping, outside of nationalistic fervor, the verdict is almost always guilty.
Lalluka is gearing up to fight the doping charges, but it is a losing battle. There is little precedent for an athlete with a positive A and B sample to get off without a suspension. At this point all evidence points to another sad chapter in the performance enhancing drug saga that has become all too common in elite sport.
But cheaters and lawbreakers have rights. The rules state that a B-sample must confirm the result of the A-sample. Until those findings are complete, all information associated with the case, even the existence of the case, must be kept completely private.
Tags: Juha Lalluka