Two Croatian freedivers, one an AIDA world-record holder, have been banned indefinitely from Vertical Blue depth competitions after arriving in the Bahamas allegedly in possession of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Four PEDs were found in the luggage of world record-holder Petar Klovar and another Croatian competitor, Vitomir Maričić, on Long Island on 4 July, according to the Vertical Blue organisers. They said that the prescription drugs were on one or both of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Vertical Blue banned substances lists for athletes.
The competition itself does not begin until 20 July but all Vertical Blue competitors are required to sign a no-doping agreement before registration, and competition organisers were involved in the search.
A recording has been released of the freedivers discussing the drugs they were carrying, and those they thought might already be detectable in their systems, with female Croatian freediver Sanda Delija, who had travelled with the men but was not registered as a Vertical Blue competitor. The conversation is in their own language but subtitled.
Klovar and Maričić were summarily banned from Vertical Blue 2023 and future such events, and the organisers say their cases have been referred to the disciplinary committee of competitive freediving’s world governing body AIDA.
“Everything that is happening now is incredible and false and doesn't correspond to the truth,” stated Klovar in a statement issued on social media. “We are currently advised not to make any detailed statements. Our lawyers are taking action, because things are out of hand and serious.
“We are athletes that are clean, have always been and this will all be soon clarified. We believe anyone knowing us or training with us already knows this from personal experience.”
Klovar is currently world record-holder in the Free Immersion (FIM) discipline, having dived to 128m in May, and is Croatian national record-holder in Constant Weight No Fins (CNF).
Maričić is national record-holder in Constant Weight Bi-fins (CWTB) and in Dynamic Bi-fins (DYNB) and Dynamic No Fins (DNF), and is ranked world number 2 in the two pool disciplines.
The Vertical Blue annual event, newly sponsored by Garmin, takes place from 20-30 July. The AIDA-judged depth competition has been held at Dean’s Blue Hole since 2008 and is organised by CNF world-record holder William Trubridge and named after his freediving school at the site. It features FIM, CNF and Constant Weight (CWT) diving.
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