Peter Bol has failed to progress past the 800m heats at the world athletics championships in a brutal return after his controversial ban. The most tumultuous year of the Aussie runner's career took another dramatic turn on Tuesday in Budapest after he crashed out in the opening round if his pet event.
Bol returned to the global stage on Tuesday (local time), seven months after he was provisionally suspended for testing positive to EPO and three weeks after the anti-doping investigation was finally dropped by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA). The middle-distance runner, who famously make the 800m final at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, had only raced a handful of times in Europe this year - mostly in low-key meets.
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And the rust certainly showed. Bol was well off the pace in his heat, crossing the line in fifth spot in one minute, 46.75 seconds and failing to advance. The 29-year-old, who remains at loggerheads with Athletics Australia, refused to speak to the media after his race.
Back on the world stage 💚💛
A slow first lap in Heat 6 of the Men's 800m sees Peter Bol work into the race to finish in fifth place in 1:46.75, falling shy of the top-three placing required to advance to the semi-finals. #ThisIsAthletics pic.twitter.com/OWGnRRQJkj
— Athletics Australia (@AthsAust) August 22, 2023
Athletics Integrity Unit boss blasts Peter Bol 'disaster'
Earlier in the day, Athletics Integrity Unit head David Howman said the Bol case had been handled disastrously. Howman called on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to conduct a review of the EPO testing process that led to Bol initially recording a positive test.
"The worst thing that could happen is what happened in that case," Howman told reporters in Budapest. "What we must do is to ensure that the process can be reviewed and re-conducted in a way that doesn't end up in such a disaster.
"It's not fair on the athlete. We accept that. What we have to do is ensure that WADA does its work in reviewing the whole process.
"When a B sample doesn't match an A there has to be a review of the individual case - there just has to be. And there needs to be an answer given which is satisfactory to the athlete who has gone through a process which has damaged his or her reputation."
When Sport Integrity Australia officially ended their anti-doping case against Bol last month, they conceded that further scientific testing of the runner's sample pointed to it being a false positive. That means Bol should not have been charged or provisionally banned in the first place.
Athletics Australia CEO Peter Bromley said the matter should never have dragged on for so long, causing Bol's integrity to be unfairly questioned. "This case raises very serious questions about the accuracy and consistency of EPO analysis," said Bromley.
"Peter Bol has been trapped in a very difficult and damaging no-man's land for the last seven months. He, and every other high-performance athlete, deserves clear and transparent answers to explain what went wrong and what is being done to ensure it doesn't happen again."
Joseph Deng advances, Jessica Hull seventh
It wasn't all bad news for Australia on Tuesday, with Bol's training partner Joseph Deng finishing third in his heat in 1:45.48 to advance to the semis on Thursday (early Friday AEST). "There were no nerves actually, I felt quite good," said Deng, who replaced Bol as the Australian record holder last month. "I have never run in a world championships before - it was awesome."
Deng said it was awesome competing alongside his close friend Bol at a major championships. "That is the first time representing Australia together so it's very good," he noted.
And Jessica Hull finished seventh in a red-hot women's 1500m final, but took plenty of confidence out of her run. Faith Kipyegon further embellished her legend, with the Kenyan successfully defending her title in a remarkable time of three minutes 54.87 seconds.
Ethiopia's Dirbie Welteji took the silver, while Dutch great Sifan Hassan got bronze in a final of the highest quality. Hull - who dipped under the four-minute mark for the second time in three days with a run of 3:59.54 to finish seventh - insists her best is yet to come.
"If you look at Faith, Sifan, Ciara (Mageean) and Laura (Muir), they are 29 or 30 and I am 26 and I think we are starting to see the peaks a bit later," the Aussie runner said. "So let's pivot, let's be mature and race where we are at as a 26-year-old and know that this next Olympic cycle is my peak.
"It's the same result as a year ago but I am a different athlete and I am proud of it. I have gone away from working on my speed the last three or four years since coming out of college... I have seen a massive jump already but you need years of that stuff. So another year of working on my weakness is going to turn it into a strength."
Former Commonwealth champion Brandon Starc was equal-eighth in the men's high jump final with a best clearance of 2.25m - which was 11cm shy of his personal best. Italian Olympic champ Gianmarco Tamberi (2.36m) won gold on a countback from American JuVaughn Harrison.
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