Tested positive at EPO on September 18, 2019 after an internship at Font-Romeu, Ophélie Claude-Boxberger had another positive test five days later in Doha, before the Worlds, which again revealed traces of EPO in the blood of the athlete, five-time French champion and specialist in the 3,000 m steeplechase. While she risked up to eight years of suspension, which the French Agency for the Fight against Doping (AFLD) had requested, she had finally received a two-year suspension in April 2021 pronounced by the commission of AFLD sanctions.
Two years of additional suspension were requested Monday at the Council of State for the athlete, already suspended two years for having tested positive for EPO in September 2019. In addition to taking EPO, the AFLD asked that the athlete is also sanctioned for having falsified elements of the doping control, in particular by influencing the testimony of his ex-coach and ex-father-in-law, Alain Flaccus.
An “insufficiently severe” sanction
He was initially accused of having injected EPO into the athlete during a massage before going back on his confession. The AFLD believed that this witness had been manipulated by the athlete, and had also lied about his geolocation in the days preceding his control. But, the sanctions commission had not followed it on this path, and had been sensitive to the arguments of the defense of Ophélie Claude-Boxberger.
The president of the AFLD had appealed this two-year suspension before the Council of State, considering the sanction “insufficiently severe”, explained the public rapporteur of the Council of State on Monday. The rapporteur, whose conclusions are followed in the vast majority of cases, considered during the hearing that the “particular circumstances” raised by the athlete’s defense did not allow the suspension to be reduced and therefore asked him to impose a four-year suspension.
As for the supposed offense of falsification, he considered that the facts were not sufficiently characterized to retain them. In September 2021, Alain Flaccus, prosecuted by Ophélie Claude-Boxberger for “poisoning”, had been acquitted by the court of Montbéliard (Doubs).