Peter Bol is the biggest male track star Australia has had in decades. The 28-year-old is one of the world’s premier middle-distance runners. With a Commonwealth Games silver medal, a fourth-place finish at the Olympics and the Australian 800 metres record, Bol has built an impressive resume. But his career was nearly derailed last month after a positive doping test resulted in a provisional suspension. Now, the ban has been overturned and Bol says “The relief I’m feeling is hard to describe.”
Bol was banned from training and competing last month after returning a positive urine sample to the performance enhancing drug Erythropoietin (EPO). He immediately denied using performance enhancing drugs in a statement released on Instagram. “I am innocent and have not taken this substance as I am accused,” Bol said. “I have NEVER in my life purchased, researched, possessed, administered, or used synthetic EPO or any other prohibited substance.”
Since the positive result last month, Bol has been provisionally banned from all forms of athletics training and from competing. He demanded a second test to prove his innocence. And that second test has now exonerated him. The results of the second sample were negative and failed to confirm the result of the first sample. Meaning that Bol is free to compete at the athletics world championships later this year.
“I was hopeful that the process would exonerate me,” Bol said in a fresh statement on Instagram. “This morning, I am relieved to report that it did.” The result of the second test has led to public outcry and condemnation from Bol’s lawyer. Who criticised Sport’s Integrity Australia for the leaking of the result of Bol’s first drug test, which was supposed to remain confidential.
Bol had a breakthrough in 2021. After scraping into the Tokyo Olympics with a personal best qualifying time, he set the Australian 800 metre record in his heat and won his semi-final. Bol captured the hearts of Australia before narrowly missing out on a medal with a fourth-place finish in the final. The last Australian man to win an individual track medal at the Olympics was Rick Mitchell in 1980. While Bol fell just short in Tokyo, his fourth-place finish means he’s done what few Australian men have come close to in more than 40 years.
Following his Olympic breakthrough, Peter Bol had a successful Commonwealth Games campaign last year, where he took home a silver medal. Heading into the 2022 world championships, Bol aspired to finish on the podium. While he made the final, a seventh-place finish left him disappointed. Now, with this year’s world championships on the horizon after a month without training, Bol faces a different kind of race to return to the elite level of fitness required to compete with the world’s best.
Bol hasn’t been able to train since January 10th and is now racing to get back into form. His coach, Justin Rinaldi, admits Bol will need time to get back up to speed. “He might need a few days to let it sink in, it has been a big mental strain,” Rinaldi said. “He has not run or trained for four or five weeks, so he will need time.”
The Australian national athletics championships, which also serve as qualifiers for the world championship team, are scheduled to begin next month. A tough turnaround for an athlete that’s been unable to train for more than 30 days. If Bol isn’t fit in time and fails to qualify, he may still make the world championship team through a medical dispensation on mental health grounds.