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Ukraine track and field federation offered secret bans for doping confessions

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MOSCOW (AP) — A plan to offer amnesty to Ukrainian track and field athletes who confess to doping has led to inquiries from the IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Ukrainian Athletics Federation wrote on its website last week that athletes on the country’s national team using performance-enhancing drugs could serve very short bans in secret if they confess. Secret bans, however, would break IAAF rules.

“We’re informed. We’re in discussions with WADA and we’re seeking clarification from the Ukrainian federation,” IAAF spokesman Chris Turner told The Associated Press last week.

Ukraine, which has been stripped of three track medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, has a poor record on doping and conducts few drug tests by European standards.

The UAF website referred to a month-long amnesty period running until April 3. If athletes “voluntarily confess” to their own drug use, “the information will not be made public and the athlete will not face sanctions other than quarantine (temporary suspension from competition) for the period taken for traces of banned substances to leave the body.”

It can take only a few days for some banned steroids to leave the body. A standard doping ban under WADA rules is four years, which can be halved for a voluntary confession. Keeping offenders’ names secret breaks IAAF regulations, which demand “automatic publication” unless the athlete is a child.

The UAF also suggested there could be harsher punishment for athletes who didn’t confess and are caught later, since the lack of a confession would be an “aggravating circumstance.” That appears to breach WADA rules.

WADA has also said it has contacted Ukrainian authorities for clarification.

Ukraine’s repeated doping violations have seen it classed as in IAAF “critical care” — one step away from a Russia-style ban from international competition.

There have been conflicting responses about the amnesty offer from Ukrainian officials.

UAF vice president Fidel Timchenko told the AP in a recent interview that the statements on the website — since deleted — should have specified athletes would have to inform on other dopers, not just confess their own drug use. Providing “substantial assistance” to investigations can mean a potential ban is cut by up to 75 percent or even eliminated altogether in exceptional cases, under WADA rules.

Timchenko also said he didn’t consider the plan to be an amnesty, but his views didn’t appear to match statements made by UAF president Ihor Hotsul in an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency. Hotsul compared the initiative to a weapons amnesty run by police, and his interview didn’t mention any requirement for athletes to inform on others.

In a further twist, Timchenko told the AP that athletes who only confessed their own drug use might also be let off without punishment because they hadn’t failed a doping test.

“Words aren’t enough,” Timchenko said. “The main thing is a medical document, not a confession.”

The UAF wouldn’t say how many athletes have taken up its offer and has yet to contact WADA about the cases, Timchenko said.

WADA approval would be needed for any reduced sanctions for whistleblowers, under rules designed to prevent the system from being abused. Timchenko argued names could be kept secret for a time for whistleblowers’ safety, but the IAAF said all names would have to be published.

Timchenko combines his track federation duties with a role as head of the Ukrainian anti-doping agency’s disciplinary committee. He denied his dual role was a conflict of interest and said he wouldn’t rule on sanctions for track athletes.

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MORE: Russian track and field stars cleared to compete

Paralympian Blake Leeper advances in 400m at USATF Outdoors (video)

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Paralympic medalist Blake Leeper, believed to be the first double amputee to race at a USATF Outdoor Championships, advanced out of the 400m heats in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Leeper ran 45.52, third in his heat, to grab the 16th and last spot in the 400m semifinals Friday (10:34 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

It marked a personal best by .58 of a second for Leeper, who was racing one day after his ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2015 ended.

“I wanted to advance, but if I don’t I have won already,” Leeper said before he learned he made the semis, according to USA Track and Field. “Just being here and showing everybody what you can truly do with a disability.”

Leeper ran faster than Olympians David VerburgKyle ClemonsArman Hall and Manteo Mitchell, who were all eliminated.

It’s likely that the top five or six in Saturday’s final will make the 4x400m team for the world championships in London in August.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships (video)

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced five months pregnant in 100-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

“People were like, oh, you’re going to run faster than you did last time because you’re less pregnant,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I was like, I’m still pregnant.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

In a Wonder Woman top, Montaño gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño said. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative of people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. Not everybody has the same platform that I do. I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Montaño said she was inspired when she learned Gal Gadot, who played the title role in the movie “Wonder Woman,” filmed half of it while five months pregnant.

“I saw Wonder Woman, and I was like, I for sure am signing up for USA Nationals,” Montaño said. “I already was thinking I was going to do it.”

Montaño said it wasn’t easier or harder racing Thursday versus three years ago, when she had a bigger baby bump.

“The weird part about five months is you’re still growing and like shifting a lot,” she said. “So every week you have to readjust.”

Linnea has seen enough photos of her mom’s famous race in 2014 to know what was going on.

“I go, mom is going to run with your sibling in her belly,” Montaño recalled. “I did that with you, too. And [Linnea] was like, ‘Yeah, it was sticking out!'”

Montaño raced outdoors for the first time since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4. Montaño had won the previous Olympic Trials (and finished fourth in London) and the 2015 U.S. title coming back from pregnancy.

She ran without an apparel sponsor Thursday, frustrated that Asics waited until December to say they were not interested in retaining her for 2017. Montaño said that left her no time to try and find a different sponsor, even though she was already planning to have her second child.

“You need to let an athlete know in September, October,” she said. “I’ve been calling [Asics] since September to be like, hey, I didn’t make the Olympic team, I’m 30, I’m going to have another baby.”

In the men’s 800m Thursday, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

MORE: Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

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