World governing body “blocked publication” of study that revealed that up to 34% of athletes competing at 2011 Worlds had violated anti-doping rules in previous 12 months, according to the Sunday Times

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has issued a response after the world governing body was accused of having “suppressed” a survey revealing that “a third of the world’s top competitors admitted cheating by using banned performance-enhancing techniques”.

According to the Sunday Times, a team of academic researchers “extracted” confessions of cheating from athletes at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu. The newspaper reported that the researchers concluded that 29%-34% of the 1800 competitors at the championships had violated anti-doping rules in the previous 12 months.

The University of Tubingen in Germany, which is said to have led the research project, is quoted by the newspaper as saying in a statement: “The IAAF’s delaying publication for so long without good reason is a serious encroachment on the freedom of publication,” adding that the IAAF had not been the ones to commission the survey.

As well as having “blocked publication”, the researchers are reported to have been prevented from speaking out about the results after having been told to sign a confidentiality agreement.

But the Sunday Times said the newspaper and the German broadcaster ARD/WDR had seen a leaked copy of the study, adding that it concludes: “These findings demonstrate that doping is remarkably widespread among elite athletes, and remains largely unchecked despite current biological testing programs.”

The newspaper noted that some figures from the study had been published in America in 2013. The New York Times published a report, which can be read here, in August 2013.

Following the allegations, the IAAF issued a statement which read in part: “The IAAF has noted today’s article in the Sunday Times claiming yet another ‘sensational’ revelation, this time concerning the alleged results of a study which was carried out at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea. This is not a new story, having first been raised on German TV in 2013, and those concerns were addressed by the IAAF at the time.

“The study in question was a social science based survey conducted by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and a team of researchers at the athletes’ village in Daegu. The purpose of the study was to assess the reliability of potential new methods of evaluating the prevalence of doping in sport using more of a social science approach (randomised-response survey). The survey was intended to be extended to multi-sport events and no publication was ever evoked. In fact, the survey was only ever repeated once, with a revised methodology, at the Pan-Arabic Games where mainly athletes were interviewed.

“The IAAF was therefore surprised when it was informed in early 2013 that an article had already been submitted by the research team for publication in a scientific journal without the IAAF’s knowledge. The IAAF understands that the article was rejected for publication.”

Ahead of the IAAF statement being released, UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek and had commented: “The small synopsis is they (IAAF) believe that the scientific rigour of that survey wasn’t sufficient for it to pass muster and that the scientists themselves tried to get it published it in a science journal called ‘Science’ and it was turned down because it didn’t pass muster.

“The IAAF claim they have been conducting their own prevalence survey since 2011 and they will get to an answer.”

He added: “For me, one of the big issues we’ve had in the last few weeks is that this row, if you like, between the Sunday Times and the IAAF has become almost institutionalised and has taken over the key issue. The key issue for me is: are there cheats in the sport and is enough being done to rout them out? There is too much finger-pointing going on between those two organisations, which is actually drawing attention away from the key issues.”

Earlier claims published by the Sunday Times in the past few weeks include that a third of Olympic or world championships medals in endurance events from 2001-2012 were won by athletes with suspicious test readings. The Sunday Times and ARD/WDR reportedly obtained access to a database of blood-test information which is said to have contained more than 12,000 blood tests from 5000 athletes from during that time period.

The IAAF responded to those claims by saying that the world governing body “strongly rejects” the allegations, labelling them as “sensationalist and confusing”.