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French Olympic marathon hopeful facing possible suspension for doping violation

Mehdi Frère is facing a possible two-year suspension for "whereabouts failures" (i.e., three missed doping tests) and could miss the Paris Olympics

Paris 2024 Photo by: Photo: Creative Commons

Parisian marathoner Mehdi Frère, 27, might lose his chance to represent his country on his home soil in this summer’s highly anticipated Olympic Games following reports that he missed three scheduled doping tests. Frère’s potential disqualification and the risk of a two-year suspension came as a major blow for the Frenchman just days before the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) was set to announce its official team selections.

Frère has a marathon personal best of 2:05:43 from a top-10 finish at the 2023 Valencia Marathon. Since entering the scene in 2020, he has placed 10th at the Paris Marathon at 2:11:04 and 17th at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

When questioned by l’Indépendant and SPE15, Frère denied having ever missed a single test; this has since raised questions about localization procedures and scrutiny by the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) staff, the organization responsible for testing and enforcing anti-doping regulations in France.

Athletes must update their whereabouts on a regular basis so they can be located for out-of-competition testing; if they aren’t present at their reported location when a doping control officer shows up, it counts as a missed test. Three missed tests in a 12-month period usually result in a suspension.

The AFLD is currently conducting an investigation. Although Frère can mount a defense, challenge any procedural lapses and justify his actions, he faces a narrow timeframe, given that selections are expected to be announced this week. 

Photo: Strava

Speculation that Frère was doping began shortly after his remarkable performance at the Valencia Marathon in December, where he had a three-minute improvement on his previous personal best (set in 2020). This sudden leap in performance and his rapid progress (he improved his PB by six minutes from 2019 to 2020) has raised eyebrows. 

In an interview with SEP15, he attributed his progress to two factors—improved shoe quality and a significant increase in training mileage. His Strava data show a consistent rise in weekly mileage from 77 km in 2019 to 162 km in 2024.

In an interview with L’Equipe, Frère and his lawyer said the first two breaches in question involve delays in modifying location information. According to Frère, officials claim he did not notify them of his location change early enough when he went to run the Naples half-marathon and again at the Road World Championships in Riga. Frère insisted this was false and that he was tested both times. He quipped that he is very transparent about his location, even recording everything publicly on Strava. Frère did not comment on the details of the third breach. 

Frère’s suspension is currently under decision by the The French Athletics Federation (FFA). Today, in agreement with the Olympic Selection Consultative Commission (CCSO), the FFA announced that male selection for the Paris Olympics has been postponed to allow further investigation into the allegations.  

According to L’Equipe, if officials deem Frère guilty of doping, marathoner Felix Bour (who ran 2:06:46 at Valencia) will receive France’s final ticket. The other two athletes expected to be announced are Morhad Amdouni (PB of 2:03:47) and Nicolas Navarro (PB of 2:05:53). The CNOSF is set to announce the women’s team selection on Wednesday.

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