The excitement around yesterday’s Sierre-Zinal race in the Swiss Alps has been clouded somewhat after those in the know pointed out that the female winner and course record-setter, Maude Mathys, the second-place male finisher, Petro Mamu (who also ran a course-record-setting time) and seventh-place female finisher Elisa Desco of Italy all have been guilty of past doping infractions.

According to an update in Salomon’s blog about the race, Mathys was reprimanded in 2015 for using the fertility drug clomiphene, which is prohibited under WADA rules. (She was using it because she was trying to get pregnant, and was let off with a warning.)

Desco served a two-year suspension for a positive EPO test back in 2009, and has strongly protested her innocence.

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Mamu’s status is more troubling: he’s reported to have tested positive for a prohibited asthma medication after both the World Mountain Running Championships and World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, and in 2017 was handed a two-year suspension that was reduced to nine months after he co-operated with the IAAF and admitted to doping.

The situation highlights the hotly-contested issue of doping control in ultra-trail events, which many runners feel strongly is grossly inadequate. (Drug testing has become quite sophisticated in both the track and road marathon worlds, at least at IAAF-sanctioned events, but is at best sporadic in the trail world.) Ultrarunner Camille Herron is one of the more vocal critics of the lack of drug testing at ultra-trail events. “For a sport that has little in-competition drug testing and non existent out-of-competition testing, this is a really bad sign,” Herron told us.

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In particular, Herron is critical of ITRA’s Quartz drug-testing program, which is non-WADA compliant. “The sport desperately needs to do something and not continue to act like the Quartz Program is a true out-of-competition testing program, when it isn’t,” she said. (Quartz is only one of a number of lower-cost alternatives to WADA drug testing that may be found at ultra-trail events.

The American Trail Running Association (ATRA) recently published a series of articles about the situation, which can be read here.

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