A National Treasure on the Rise, Then Hit With a Doping Allegation

Until the Olympics, Mr. Bol never earned more than $20,000 a year from running, paying for all related costs himself, Mr. Rinaldi said. “It’s not glamorous.” Few could afford performance drugs, particularly as part of a structured program of doping, he added. “It’s not something that’s feasible in our sport, particularly here in Australia.”

The drug Mr. Bol is accused of having used is near-identical to a molecule found naturally in the body that stimulates the production of red blood cells. The test for it yields columns of black streaks of varying thicknesses and densities.

Antidoping agencies typically analyze the results from those tests using the human eye, a worryingly fallible method, said Erik Boye, a Norwegian scientist. Along with fellow professors of biochemistry and molecular biology in Oslo, he has long been calling for a change in how these tests are conducted.

“There are scientific methods whereby you can measure exactly the density in the profile that you’re analyzing,” he said. “You can have a machine do it. And then the answer is obvious.”

In the early 2010s, Dr. Boye and his colleagues sought to rally support within the scientific community for such machine analysis. At first, they attracted signatories from significant colleagues, including Werner Franke, who exposed details of East Germany’s state-sponsored athlete doping program, and Peter Agre, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003.

But these efforts were scorned by antidoping agencies, who said that they were highly experienced in analyzing the tests and would not change their methods.

Eventually, Dr. Boye said, the fight began to feel unwinnable. “It’s just so unfair,” he said. “You think that antidoping is a worthy, glorious undertaking, but it’s not, unfortunately.”

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