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French steeplechaser reportedly fails doping test

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Paris (AFP)

French 3,000m steeplechase specialist Ophelie Claude-Boxberger has tested positive for EPO, said a source close to the case on Tuesday.

This is third doping case in French athletics in less than a year.

Paris' Public Prosecutor's Office confirmed it had opened a "preliminary investigation on 14 October into offences under anti-doping and poisonous substances legislation."

Claude-Boxberger, 31, had a difficult time at September's World Championships in Doha as she finished a distant last in her heat and social media postings suggested she was in a relationship with the French team's medical director Jean-Michel Serra.

He quit his position midway through the championships "for personal reasons".

In June, Serra, without warning his superiors, complained about the number of doping tests Claude-Boxberger had been subject to by the French authorities. At the time, he denied any relationship with the runner.

Spe15.fr, a French website specialising in doping in middle-distance running, reported Claude-Boxberger's home had been searched.

French newspapers reported police had visited the headquarters of the French Athletics Federation.

During the World Championships, German broadcaster ARD reported another French runner, Morhad Amdouni, the 2018 European 10,000m champion had exchanged WhatsApp messages with a person asking him for payment for an EPO purchase. Amdouni denied the accusations.

On Wednesday, another French athlete, marathon runner Clemence Calvin, faces a disciplinary hearing along with her husband and coach Samir Dahmani, for avoiding an unannounced test in Morocco in March.

"It's very good that there's a massacre right now, it proves that things are opening up and moving towards a cleaner sport," said decathlon world record holder Kevin Mayer as the French team assembled on Sunday for a training camp to launch their Olympic preparations.

"It drives me crazy. I don't know who's doped in the French team... The only buddy who doped in the French team was Quentin Bigot and I haven't wanted to have any personal relationships with him since," he added.

Of the athletes with Mayer, only Bigot, a hammer throw silver medallist in Doha but suspended for two years for using an anabolic steroid in 2014, offered a more nuanced answer opinion.

"Am I the best person to talk about this," he said.

"It's sad. I've been there, I know what it is like, it's especially hard for the athlete and everyone around them. We shouldn't be happy about this kind of news."

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