Trains, planes and memory sticks: reporter's doping scoop quest

Tue Aug 4, 2015 7:48am EDT
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By Paul Carrel

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German journalist behind an explosive report suggesting widespread doping in world athletics traveled to rural Kenya, pursued dead-end leads and made a lot of fruitless trips before nailing the story that has rocked global sport.

Hajo Seppelt, 52, says he is not a crusader but is driven by a desire to report the facts about the behind-the-scenes world of athletics, which he believes is plagued by a conflict of interest between promoting the sport and combating doping.

Seppelt's reporting for his latest documentary built on another story last year, in which he made claims of systematic doping in Russia, angering sports authorities there.

"After the first documentary was aired and there was world-wide attention, I thought there must be a follow-up because people are interested in knowing if the Russians have drawn some consequences," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Seppelt's reporting took a new turn when a whistleblower posted him secret data from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), stored on a memory stick.

The data indicated suspected widespread blood doping in athletics between 2001 and 2012 and has prompted the head of world athletics to dismiss as "laughable" any suggestion that his organization had been negligent in drug testing of athletes.

Working with journalists from Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, Seppelt, from German broadcaster ARD, set about corroborating the data and crisscrossing the world to meet sources to flesh out his story.

He traveled to the Caucasus, Austria, Lausanne in Switzerland, London, Monte Carlo, Prague, Australia, Kenya and the United States. Not all the trips were worthwhile.   Continued...

Participants talk before the start of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Symposium for Anti-Doping Organizations in Lausanne, in this March 24, 2015 file photo.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files