Kenyan #Athletics is still reeling from the news last week that one of their most high-profile distance athletes Rita Jeptoo, a winner of the Boston Marathon three times and Chicago Marathon twice, has tested positive for EPO and been handed a two-year ban as a result. The 33-year-old athlete has been waiting for the decision to be confirmed since last September when the test came back positive, but was still allowed to compete and win her second successive Chicago Marathon just weeks later. The announcement casts a dark shadow over a proud athletics' nation, with a long heritage within the sport.

Last Friday came the news from Athletics Kenya of Jeptoo's suspension from all forms of competition up until October 29th 2016, ruling her out of not only the world championships in Beijing this summer, but also the Rio Olympics the following year.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Any financial reward as a result of her winning the 2013/14 World Marathon Majors, which brought with it a 'healthy' share of the $500,000 prize, has already been rescinded.

She fell foul of an out-of-competition test, with both the necessary "A" and "B" samples taken at the time testing positive for Erythropoietin, which is commonly abbreviated to "EPO" and linked to blood doping to enhance athletics' performance. EPO is a protein hormone produced by the kidney and when released into the blood stream, it acts to stimulate the production of red blood cells, increasing the oxygen carrying capacity and can therefore be of interest to the athletic community in some circles. In normal medical usage, it can be used to treat types of anemia.

In her defence, Jeptoo suggested that the banned substances may have originated from something that she was prescribed to take by a local hospital, following a minor road accident that she was involved in.

Advertisements

She appeared in person at a hearing earlier this month in Nairobi to testify on the matter as the disciplinary process considered her case.

Jeptoo became the 45th athlete from Kenya to fail a doping test, with the numbers beginning to weigh heavy on Kenyan politicians, who have come under increased pressure recently to take action in response. There are those who would wish for doping to be criminalized, to act as a deterrent to others tempted to follow suit.

Already, the World Anti-Doping Agency have been in discussions with Kenya about its drug-testing program, encouraging them to become more vigilant and assisting them in the set-up of an anti-doping body at a national level (with assistance from similar bodies from Norway and China). It is believed that Athletics Kenya has already either banned or suspended 32 athletes in the past five years as a result of doping-related offences.

The greater ramifications of the positive test are already being felt by other leading distance athletes in Kenya, with multiple women's world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat admitting that "her positive test has made it very difficult for us." It has resulted in others from her country being questioned about doping whenever they travel to races outside the country, although she is in favour of routing out the cheats.

Advertisements

In an interesting twist, Kiplagat stands to benefit from her compatriot's misfortune by being upgraded to be the winner of the World Marathon Majors instead.

The spotlight on Kenya has intensified since the German broadcaster ARD brought allegations in 2012, which intimated that doping was commonplace among the distance runners from that country.

Drugs cheats in athletics have been much in the news recently, with the aftermath of Tatyana Chernova's two-year ban still being discussed. She beat Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill to gold in the 2011 World Championships in the heptathlon, but despite having a sample from 2009 re-tested and found to be positive (as the developments in medical science and testing in particular move on) she has retained her world title (which she won crucially just after the period of annulment), despite her records being annulled from August 2009 to August 2011. Ennis-Hill's coach Toni Minichiello believes that is inconsistent, as she would have still gained an advantage when setting her personal best for the event. #Celebrities #Medicine