National marathon coach under investigation for doping athletes
Published : Jun 17, 2011 - 09:41
Updated : Jun 17, 2011 - 09:41

CHUNCHEON (Yonhap News) -- The national marathon team head coach is being probed for allegedly doping his athletes, including an Asian Games gold medalist, local police said Friday.

Jeong Man-hwa has allegedly made his marathoners inject themselves with illegal substances that increase red blood cells since April, said a spokesman for the police here, about 85 kilometers east of Seoul, adding these substances are undetectable in drug tests.

Police are also examining records at a rehabilitation hospital in Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, where most of Jeong's athletes were treated and may have been injected with banned substances.

Among the athletes is Ji Young-jun, a top local marathoner who won the gold medal at the Guangzhou Asian Games last November.

Police said they've already questioned two athletes and will expand their probe into about 20 others, including Ji.

Substances that control red blood cell production are known to improve stamina for athletes. Cyclists, distance runners, triathletes and cross-country skiers have been known to use erythropoietin (EPO), a high-profile blood doping substance.

The investigation comes about two months before the southeastern provincial capital city of Daegu hosts the 2011 World Championships in Athletics. Korea has never won a medal at the world championships, and the marathon is regarded as the host's best chance for a medal.

"We're being careful with this investigation because it could send huge shock waves throughout the athletics community ahead of the world championships," a police investigator said. "We will announce the results of our probe as soon as our analysis is done."

According to the Korea Association of Athletic Federations (KAAF), Jeong has told KAAF President Oh Dong-jin that he is innocent, and Oh urged Jeong and the marathon national team to stay focused on their preparations for the world championships.

KAAF officials said their own investigation found no evidence of doping among marathoners, insisting someone conspired against Jeong and gave false tip-offs to police.

Jeong had been a coach for a girls' middle school and high school in Gangwon Province. KAAF officials said some coaches of semi-pro clubs became angry with Jeong when he refused to let them recruit his athletes.

"President Oh said after the world championships, he will try to identify just who made these false accusations and take legal action against them," said Seo Sang-taek, the KAAF director of planning and public relations.

"No athlete has tested positive in recent competitions," Seo added. "The Korea Anti-Doping Agency (KADA) told us that these blood cell-making agencies can be detected in tests."

Hwang Kyu-hoon, a vice president of the KAAF and former coach of distance runners, said allegations against Jeong "aren't even worthy of our time."

"Today, event organizers run strict tests on athletes, including urine and blood tests," Hwang said. "So if you've doped, you're bound to get caught sooner or later."


경찰, 마라톤선수들 금지약물 투약혐의 수사


강원경찰청 마약수사대는 16일 마라톤 국가대표 코치 겸 강원도 내 모 학교의 육상부 감독 정모(51)씨가 도핑검사에 검출되지 않는 약물을 선수들에게 투약해 경기력을 향상시켰다는 혐의를 포착하고 수사하고 있다고 밝혔다.

경찰에 따르면 정씨는 지난 4월부터 자신이 지도하는 마라톤 선수들에게 조혈제(혈액 속의 헤모글로빈 수치를 높여주는 약)을 주사하도록 해 특정 대회에서 우수한 성적을 거두는 등 비정상적인 방법으로 경기력을 향상시켰다는 혐의를 받고 있다.

경찰은 정 감독이 지도하는 선수들이 자주 치료를 받으면서 불법 약물을 투약한 장소로 의심받는 충북 제천의 모 재활의학과의원의 진료기록 등을 압수해 분석하고 있다.

또 이날 정 감독의 지도를 받는 모 학교 소속 선수 2명을 상대로 경기 전ㆍ후에 규정에 위반된 약물을 투약했는지를 조사했다.

이어 정 감독의 지도를 받았거나 해당 재활의학과의원의 치료를 받은 현역 선수 20여명에 대해서도 수사를 확대할 방침이다.

경찰 관계자는 지영준(30.코오롱) 선수 등 일부 국가대표급 마라톤 선수도 정씨의 지도를 받으면서 제천의 재활의학과의원에서 진료를 받은 적이 있어 조사할 필요가 있다는 입장을 밝혔다.

경찰 관계자는 "세계대회를 앞두고 국내 마라톤 등 육상계에 미치는 여파가 클 것으로 판단돼 조심스럽게 수사를 하고 있다"며 "분석 작업이 끝나는 대로 수사결과를 발표할 방침"이라고 말했다.

그러나 정 감독과 해당 선수들은 경찰이 밝힌 혐의를 강하게 부인하는 것으로 전해졌다.

조혈제(造血劑)는 피를 만들어내는 작용을 돕는 약으로, 적혈구나 헤모글로빈을 증가시켜 악성 빈혈이나 만성신부전증을 치료하는 데 쓰인다.

조혈제를 투약한 뒤 마라톤을 할 경우 여자 선수는 7~8분, 남자 선수는 1~2분 정도 기록을 단축할 수 있는 것으로 알려졌다.