One of Norway’s most well-known race walkers, Erik Tysse, is appealing this week’s conviction on doping charges. The Norwegian sports federation’s judicial committee had banned race walker Tysse from all sporting competition for two years from last July, after finding him guilty of using an illegal substance.
The 31-year-old Tysse, who has reportedly spent NOK 1 million attempting to clear his name, becomes the first Norwegian athlete to be banned for use of the drug CERA, which is designed to enhance endurance. The Norwegian record holder tested positive for the substance, otherwise known as a type of third-generation erythropoietic-stimulating agent (ESA), during an international competition in Italy on May 1, 2010, before also failing a B-test in July and being suspended.
The race walker, who finished 5th in the 2008 Olympic 50-kilometer walk, has had to remortgage his house and appeal to family and friends in order to finance his defense. He has been aided by three expert witnesses, who have agreed to work for free to establish his innocence.
They conducted an experiment of Tysse by injecting him with iron, which he had been injected with three days before the positive drugs test – urine tests taken afterwards showed unusual protein content and pigmentation in his blood. After the same experiment was conducted on Tysse’s sister Kjersti Plätzer (herself an Olympic champion in race walking) – and yielded the same results – his experts suggested that his abnormal reaction to iron injections was a familial problem. They also pointed to his stable blood profile over long periods, and the fact that there were no significant improvements during the time of his alleged drug taking.
The tribunal did not find his evidence to be credible, however, and instigated the two-year ban from all competition. A lawyer for Antidoping Norge, who led the case against Tysse, told newspaper Aftenposten that the result was “expected” and that they were “satisfied,” adding that the judging committee “had not been in doubt.”
Speaking to Aftenposten about his own case, Tysse said he was “so emotional” but had “a clear conscience.” He already plans to appeal, and vowed that he would “not give in before the truth comes out one day.” He has also promised to train as normal, and his stated goal is to return to competition and compete in the Olympics in 2016.
CERA was once thought to be blocked by the kidneys due to its size, and therefore undetectable in urine tests. Many suspect that it has been used since the 1980s because of the difficulties experienced in tracing the drug. More effective testing has been developed over the past decade, and a number of athletes from different sports, including cycling, have been caught and banned as a result.
The drug increases the amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, improving the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and thereby strengthening an athlete’s stamina.