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  • Not technically a “doping” thing.

    but our old boss working over in Netherlands, story breaking about their systematic use of thyroxin for the sprinters based at papandal

    everyone just putting it down to coaching and hard work

    Topsportcultuur: De Nederlandse atletiek floreert, maar uit gesprekken rijst ook een ander beeld op: een topsportcultuur waarin ethische grenzen regelmatig overschreden werden en coaches en atleten zich onveilig voelden onder de leiding van hoofdcoach Charles van Commenée en technisch directeur Ad Roskam.


    • Originally posted by CoachDev
      but our old boss working over in Netherlands, story breaking about their systematic use of thyroxin for the sprinters based at papandal[/url]
      Wasn't there a similar situation here about ten years ago? I recall a suggestion that some female athletes had been spuriously diagnosed with thyroid conditions and been given thyroxine. One athlete who sticks in the mind as completely losing form after this came to light was the (very lovely and completely blameless) 800m runner Emma Jackson.


      • Anyone taking thyroid medication without an underactive thyroid is putting their health at risk.


        • Ujah banned for 22 months and contaminated supplement deemed to cause a "no fault" positive test. Will be interesting to see if more details are provided now the outcome is finalised.

          British sprinter CJ Ujah is banned for 22 months after testing positive for two banned substances at the Tokyo Olympics.


          • As you say, will be interesting to see what else emerges. The big question I guess is whether he properly he followed all protocols and was reckless or unlucky.


            • So eligible from next June. Don't want to see him anywhere near a GB relay team again regardless.


              • larkim
                larkim commented
                Editing a comment
                Isn't that a bit OTT? At a guess, I'd say it it was pretty likely that there are a lot of athletes who have consumed supplements without contamination but have been "lucky" because they didn't do all that they could have done to avoid contamination. Ujah in that sense is just "unlucky" that this time there was a contamination. Though I will keep an open mind on this, because there is of course a level of vigilance which has the appearance of being deliberately cavalier about it which would see more "blame" being attached to him.

              • Ladyloz
                Ladyloz commented
                Editing a comment
                I am a bit cynical about the 'contaminated supplement' excuse. But even if you take the story at face value he has at best been negligent which resulted in not just himself but 3 other team mates losing an Olympic medal. And Ujah was not some wet behind the ears newcomer. In 2021 he had been competing internationally for 10 years.

                This statement from UKA suggests that they're not overly symapthetic to him either -

                I also think it's very easy to throw stones at athletes in similar situations from e.g. France; Germany; USA but I think it's important we hold 'our own' to the same standards. I have no wish to be a hypocrite in this regard.

              • jjimbojames
                jjimbojames commented
                Editing a comment
                I agree re if this was an athlete from somewhere else, there would be more disdain thrown. Obviously, we never want to think of athletes we know (however loosely) doping, so more likely to see the good in them/their intentions - but clearly the UK is not above having issues!

            • Good article on Ujah in the Guardian.

              Sprinter cleared of deliberately taking performance-enhancing drugs says he always believed the truth would come out


              • He's quoted as complaining that Richard Kilty called him reckless. Reckless seems to be the precise word for what he did (with a helping of stupid). I'm pleased to see he is not now going to be taking any supplements.

                I think given this evidence, I would not now object to his being in a relay team again once his ban is over, but perhaps not this year.


                • jjimbojames
                  jjimbojames commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Kilty is correct. It would be like a taxi driver saying they didn’t check their insurance was valid - it’s a fundamental part of the job!

              • We live in strange times where for many people serving the proscribed punishment is never enough.
                This seems to happen in many walks of life.
                So Ujah serves his 22 months but then is punished again by being excluded?
                Where does it stop?


                • Occasional Hope
                  Occasional Hope commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I think it's a question of trust, Laps.

                • jjimbojames
                  jjimbojames commented
                  Editing a comment
                  The same happened with Chambers - once someone has cost you a medal - either through doping or not being thorough enough with their checking of what they’re ingesting - it’s hard to see past that. Especially for the older guys, who may well have seen their last OG, with the young guns coming through.

                • Laps
                  Laps commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Not sure I trust any elite athletes. That is why there is a doping control system.
                  Would you trust a rapidly improving mature athlete more than Ujah who has stayed on the same level for six or seven years and for whom 2021 was just an OK year? Perhaps there is more reason to trust a marked man.

              • Renee Anne Shirley, ex JADCO whistle blower, raises some good questions on Twitter: has anyone tracked down the supplement he was sold, and did he prove that other bottles of the supplement were also contaminated? The claim of contamination should only be upheld if unopened batches from the same manufacturer also test positive. Otherwise you do not have an acceptable change of custody.

                Case note: Rhys Williams & Gareth Warburton case. UKAD did not test the supplements, and left it to the athletes team to arrange the testing, which they can do under proving innocence. But the supplement manufacturer, Cambridge Commodities Limited, commissioned LGC Group’s Laboratories to test the same batch. The results came back negative for contamination with any of the substances involved in Warburton and Williams’s positive tests...However, UKAD accepted evidence that the supplements were contaminated without cross checking that evidence with the manufacturer.

                So, the supplements left the factory without contamination...the explanation that was then provided was, " oh, the packaging was contaminated..."

                Both Williams & Warburton received reduced sanctions. A total joke. But of course, they're Brits, they're likeable....they must be innocent! LOL.

                I do not accept CJ's explanation at all. An experienced athlete does not buy supplements over Amazon that are not approved by UKAD.


                • Feel free not to accept his explanation, but WADA have. It might be a naive hope, but I do think WADA will have tested that excuse out.

                  In terms of forgiveness and stupidity etc; yes, clearly was stupid and reckless but the only reason we have evidence of his stupidity and recklessness is because he was then also unlucky to get a contaminated supplement. It is pretty likely that there are other stupid and reckless athletes out there who are being lucky in not being tested following a contaminated (no fault) sample and yet we will probably have no evidence of their stupidity. Which is why I would be happy to have him back in the fold onec his ban is served.

                  When funding is limited I don't see any scenario where there aren't other athletes who are scrimping and saving on purchase of supplements in reckless "good faith"; despite all of the advice that UKA etc cna provide. We just don't know who those athletes are so we think CJ is the only stupid one.


                  • trickstat
                    trickstat commented
                    Editing a comment
                    It's a little bit like an athlete who has had a single whereabouts failure from the one time they forgot to update their whereabouts and the testers turned up at the place where they were supposed to be. Other athletes may have also had one occasion where they didn't update their details, but it was academic as no testers came that day.

                • I’m with Larkim on this.

                  Very stupid, but I’d guess there’s a lot of ‘there by the grace of god going on’. He got it wrong, and got unlucky, and let his team mates down - that will be an awful feeling. As will losing 2 peak career years over poor admin.

                  But no intent and probably no benefit either. So the world moves on and he comes back. If he’s good enough to be part of the relay next year then he should be.

                  Will be interesting to see whether stopping supplements has any impact whatsoever on his performance.


                  • MysteryBrick
                    MysteryBrick commented
                    Editing a comment
                    This. I agree 100%.

                  • alfie
                    alfie commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I am not a "judgey" type ; so if WADA is apparently satisfied Ujah was reckless rather than nefarious then I am happy to accept it. In any case he will have still served his ban so justice done...
                    The issue of a return to the team is a little trickier. His relay colleagues may well find the idea of working with him again a bit conflicted. Coaches might have to balance raw speed and skills with the effect of harmony on teamwork.

                • Originally posted by CoachDev
                  Not technically a “doping” thing.

                  but our old boss working over in Netherlands, story breaking about their systematic use of thyroxin for the sprinters based at papandal

                  everyone just putting it down to coaching and hard work

                  Had to google translate this. So apologies for the syntax errors. Thanks for the link:

                  Intimidation, verbal aggression and belittling: 25 athletes and coaches about the culture in the Dutch athletics world

                  Top sports culture Dutch athletics is flourishing, but conversations also give rise to a different picture: a top sports culture in which ethical boundaries were regularly crossed and coaches and athletes felt unsafe under the leadership of head coach Charles van Commenée and technical director Ad Roskam.

                  Half an hour before her individual debut at the Olympics, athlete Lisanne de Witte is on her hands and knees on the floor of a white tent next to the athletics track in Tokyo – the call room, the place where athletes gather for their race. She will compete in the Olympic 400 meters on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. It will be the most important game of her career.

                  She concentrates on her warm-up when she is approached out of the blue by Charles van Commenée, head coach of the Athletics Union: "You like that, don't you, being the centre of attention?"

                  De Witte is shocked. She knows that Van Commenée often makes such remarks. Mostly it's about her body. Sometimes Van Commenée thinks she is well-trained, other times she is too heavy in his eyes. But this time, so shortly before her Olympic match, De Witte is caught off guard. And when Van Commenée sees that, he goes the extra mile: “That's why you post photos of yourself on Instagram, right? To demand attention?”

                  Van Commenée says it so loudly that all trainers present in the call room can hear it. Sprint coach Bart Bennema sees that De Witte is getting furious and pulls his colleague away. "You really can't say this," he lets Van Commenée know. But De Witte is distracted and upset. “What did I do to deserve this?” she asks Petra Groenenboom, national doctor of the Dutch team, who acts as a confidential advisor for her.

                  The winner of European bronze in the 400 meters indoor and outdoor, then narrowly qualifies for the semi-final, in which she is eliminated. Since the Tokyo Games, De Witte (30) has given Van Commenée a big berth. And she's not alone.

                  Charles van Commenée (64), born in Amsterdam, has earned his spurs internationally over the past thirty years as a renowned athletics coach and sports director. After training at the Academy of Physical Education, he obtains his trainer's papers and from 1991 to 2000 he started working for the Athletics Union as a multi-athlon national team coach.

                  During that period, Vince de Lange completes his trainer training at the union. He regularly visits Van Commenée to learn the trade. De Lange (57), national team coach all-around until the 2016 Games and a chocolatier in Apeldoorn for a few years now, especially remembers the training weekends in Rhede, Germany. De Lange: “Charles once said there: 'It is useful to establish an intimate relationship with your athletes, because then you have more control over who she is and what she does.' According to him, you had an athlete that way. completely in your power and increased the chance of reaching the world top with her.”

                  In addition to his work for the Athletics Union, Van Commenée will also coach foreign athletes. Of these, all-around athlete Denise Lewis is the best known. The Briton became Olympic champion under him in 2000 in Sydney. This makes Van Commenée the first foreigner to receive a place in the British Coaching Hall of Fame.

                  In the years that follow, he first becomes director of the British athletics federation and at two Olympic Games, those of Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), he is chef de mission of the Dutch team and technical director of sports umbrella organization NOC-NSF.

                  Due to his previous earnings, he will then return as head coach at UK Athletics. He will stay on until the London Games in 2012, which were unprecedentedly successful for British athletics. In 2014, Van Commenée returns to the Netherlands as a performance manager at NOC-NSF, with athletics in his portfolio. In this way he can influence the top sports policy at the athletics federation.

                  In the autumn of 2018, Van Commenée will be appointed as head coach at the Athletics Union. He will work closely with technical director Ad Roskam, who took office 4.5 years earlier. With heavyweight and acclaimed coach Van Commenée back with his old love, Dutch athletics should get a quality boost. Sprinters from the entire spectrum – from 100 to 400 meters and the hurdles – are divided into groups and certain tracks, including the 400 meters, are chosen more sharply, following the Belgian example. The idea is; if the neighbours to the south have excelled at that distance for so long, then we should be able to do that too.

                  From that moment on, a different wind has blown over the national sports centre Papendal: manners become hardened, ethical boundaries are being crossed and athletes and (national) coaches feel less and less safe, according to conversations that NRC and Trouw have had jointly with a total of 25 coaches. parents of athletes and drivers. Many did not want their name in the newspaper for fear of reprisals.

                  It is a period in which Rana Reider, the American sprint trainer in the Dutch service, also causes unrest when it turns out that he is having an affair with an athlete from his training group, without having reported this when he took office. This goes against NOC-NSF's behavioural guidelines, about which Van Commenée says he knows nothing in an interview with de Volkskrant. “Do I offer a safe top sports environment in good conscience? Yes,” he emphasizes in the newspaper.

                  At the end of February 2019, two days before the European Championships in Indoor Athletics in Birmingham, Van Commenée, in the run-up to his first major tournament as head coach, had an introductory meeting with athletes Tony van Diepen (400 and 800 metres) and Thijmen Kupers (800 metres) about the use of thyroid hormone begins. He does this after it became known that this medication is regularly prescribed to top skaters without medical necessity, a twilight zone which chief physician Cees-Rein van den Hoogenband says on behalf of NOC-NSF is "a slippery slope".

                  There has also been a discussion about this in athletics for some time; the American coach Alberto Salazar is associated with it. The drug, known under the brand name Thyrax, is intended for an underactive thyroid, but is said to help healthy athletes with accelerated weight loss. The scientific evidence for the performance-enhancing effect is lacking. The health risks of the drug range from osteoporosis to heart failure. Reason for the Dutch Doping Authority to plead for putting the drug on the doping list, so far in vain. “Van Commenée thought we should look for the edges”, Van Diepen recalls. “He encouraged what happened to Salazar, but we thought it was unethical and we didn't want that. That led to a collision. He got angry and didn't think we were real top athletes because we didn't want to go that far." Kupers, who has since stopped, confirms the conscious conversation.

                  Salazar is also the coach of Sifan Hassan at that time and has to give her the last push to the world top. That collaboration is reason for Van Commenée - according to several sources - to send Grete Koens, national coach medium distance, to the American Portland to take a look there. Koens, who does not want to respond, refuses. She would have had moral objections because Salazar is already under doping suspicion at that time. Later, in the presence of other coaches, Van Commenée accused her of "acting unprofessionally". Salazar has since been suspended for four years for manipulating doping controls and dealing in prohibited substances – and later even for life after allegations of physical and emotional abuse.

                  Since the arrival of Van Commenée, Dutch athletics has flourished in terms of performance. Not everything Van Commenée did had a negative effect, say athletes. Some say they learned a lot from him. Others praise his “different way of thinking.”

                  With the Swiss Laurent Meuwly, Van Commenée attracts a celebrated foreign coach as successor to Rana Reider. Femke Bol, winner of Olympic bronze and World Cup silver in the 400 meter hurdles, is emerging as the most striking sign. At international tournaments, the Netherlands suddenly wins medals, with the Games in Tokyo as the pinnacle. Two golds, three silvers and three bronzes is the best Olympic result ever. Van Commenée can be seen as the architect of that success.

                  But there is also another picture. The Van Commenée approach is described internally by (federal) coaches and athletes as 'ruthless'. He determines, unconditionally supported by Roskam, which athlete ends up with which coach and which talent is brought to Papendal. He serves them just as easily afterwards, without aftercare. Those involved say that this approach has led to a culture of fear.

                  However, it is impossible to discuss top sports policy at the Athletics Union, Tony van Diepen also experiences. He gets zero when he asks if he can continue to work with Grete Koens after she stops as national coach. If Van Diepen wants to stay at Papendal, he must make the switch to the newly recruited Pole Tomasz Lewandowski, with Meuwly as supporting sprint trainer. After all, Van Diepen is also an important force in the relay team that will race to Olympic silver later that year in Tokyo in the 4×400 meters. “I have had several conversations about this with Roskam and Van Commenée. But my ambition or opinion didn't matter. I was often told the same tune: 'Top sport is not always fair'."



                  • CoachDev
                    CoachDev commented
                    Editing a comment
                    As it states, appears to be a Salazar type situation at that centre. I know the article is about bullying and has since coaches (Femke coach not surprised) defends the behaviour as simply challenging, but it’s the whole situation again.

                    And when you get an argument with an athlete and HEAD COACH about using thyroxin you be sure the rest are using too and expanding into the grey area. Which for me highlights Femke and others.

                • Part 2

                  Van Diepen remains loyal to Koens. He is not thanked for that. “Since then, Charles has made it known with derogatory remarks that I have no business in the 800 meters. According to him, I will never make it to the top at that distance.”

                  In the run-up to Tokyo, Van Diepen is publicly insulted by Van Commenée on the Papendal athletics track when he misses a training match. "I told him to act normal and I ran away," said Van Diepen. He is not the only athlete to be treated unfairly in front of others by Van Commenée - who was nicknamed The Volcano in Great Britain, according to several testimonials.

                  After the World Championship relay in Yokohama, Japan, in the spring of 2019, an athlete at the airport baggage claim is scolded for an alleged lack of dedication. The situation escalates. Sven Ootjers, the trainer of sprinters Lisanne de Witte and Jamile Samuel, finds it inappropriate and addresses Van Commenée as head coach. “He pulled me away and then lashed out at me. I was shocked by that fierce reaction. A week later he came back to it. No apologies followed. He just said, "I don't want this anymore, or I'll never take you to a tournament again." That's what happened. I was never asked again by the union. Criticism therefore has consequences.”

                  It is not only Van Commenée who commits missteps. Van Diepen: “Just before the European Championships in Munich this summer, I informed Ad [Roskam] that the flights were not properly arranged and that I thought that was unprofessional. Then he said, "It's also not professional if you're drunk thirty times a year." He suggested I'm an alcoholic because I used to go to a party every now and then."

                  Athlete Van Diepen and coach Ootjers do not report the incidents. “Filing a complaint?” says Van Diepen. "With whom? You can knock on the door of the general manager of the Athletics Union, but what is he going to do? Pieke de Zwart is in the ranking above Roskam and Van Commenée, but in practice there is little of that.” De Zwart defends himself against this when asked. “I feel a heavy responsibility when it comes to social safety.”

                  In conversations with coaches and athletes, the same picture always emerges: Van Commenée and Roskam reinforce each other in their negative behaviour, whereby Roskam, as technical director, has no control over Van Commenée. Roskam (64) states that in the event of problems, 'a solution must always be sought in the interest of the athlete'. But sprinter Jamile Samuel experienced the opposite before the World Championships in Eugene last July. When she has a pain in her foot just before leaving for the United States, she indicates that she wants to cancel the Diamond League match in Stockholm. Otherwise, she fears that she will injure her Achilles tendon again, which she had previously operated on. “Just taking a break would ensure that I could travel fit.”

                  Roskam and Van Commenée oblige her to go to Sweden, says Samuel. She has to show shape retention. If not, the relay team (4×100 meters) will be withdrawn from the World Cup and its teammates will lose their A status, is the threat. "I was put on the spot because that way I would let the other girls down if I didn't run that race." Her coach Ootjers speaks of "blackmail practices". Samuel does not start and is then passed for the World Cup. The relay team, nevertheless, delegated, dies in the series.

                  Outwardly, Van Commenée and Roskam invariably emphasize that they want the best for their athletes. Three years ago, after long-distance runner Jip Vastenburg told the Volkskrant that her obsession with weight threatened her career, the Athletics Union developed a module with which (club) coaches can recognize signs of eating problems. Trainer Rob Veer, who co-wrote the module as an advocate, says that the plans were "ambitious" but that the attention for them has now slackened. "I think another scandal or distressing case needs to come out first to get it going."

                  In the meantime, especially after the Tokyo Games, complaints about the functioning of Van Commenée have ended up on the desk of general director De Zwart. He asks Michiel Maas, an expert in the field of 'high performance', to map out the (top sport) culture. With the aim of "supporting the technical staff in securing performance-oriented top sport in a responsible manner", according to an internal email in the possession of NRC and Trouw. Maas had many conversations in recent months. Both the board and some coaches have recently been informed about his findings. Athletes will be updated later this month at Hotel Papendal, with the aim of "working together to build an (even) better and more optimal program", the same email states.

                  Roskam and Van Commenée are no longer part of that new program. Van Commenée has stopped as head coach at the Athletics Union on October 1 - he will not be replaced - and Roskam will leave a month later. Vincent Kortbeek, former technical director of the Bob and Slee Bond, succeeds him.

                  In a farewell interview with de Volkskrant, Van Commenée recently said that there is a "danger" for Dutch athletics because "the problem of cross-border behaviour gives a wrong view of top sport as far as he is concerned". Van Commenée: “Ambition is often equated with insecurity these days.”


                  • I guess it was just bad luck that poor CJ's legal supplements got contaminated not by one illegal performance enhancing drug, but two illegal performance enhancing drugs, ones often used in combination by cheats to aid performance.

                    Oh, what bad luck!


                    • Laps
                      Laps commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Fair comment but it doesn't change my opinion that he will have served his punishment and should be selected if good enough and accepted by the relay squad.