According to official documents, Jemima Sumgong’s medical records explaining EPO use were false. – By Erin Strout
The 2016 Rio Olympics women’s marathon champion will not have the opportunity to defend her title at the 2020 Games. Jemima Sumgong was handed a four-year suspension from competition on Monday from the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya.
According to the decision, Sumgong, 32, took EPO, an illegal blood-boosting hormone, then told officials she had been given the substance in February by an unnamed doctor at a hospital in Kenya for treatment of an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg attaches itself outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube).
A doping tribunal rejected her claims and called Sumgong’s explanation “inconsistent at best.” The ban’s start date is April 3, 2017, when her positive test was announced by the International Association of Athletics Federations. She waived her right to have a “B” sample tested, instead offering her story of medical treatment as her defense.
Sumgong was the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic marathon and the EPO was detected through an unannounced test by the IAAF as part of a program supported by the World Marathon Majors (WMM) organisation, the coalition of races that put on the Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City marathons.
A written statement from Nick Bitel, general counsel to the World Marathon Majors, said that Sumgong has 21 days to appeal the anti-doping agency’s decision. If there’s no appeal or the decision is confirmed, her standings in the marathon majors will be annulled and Florence Kiplagat will be the winner of last year’s series.
“Sumgong would also be banned from all Abbott World Marathon Majors races for life,” the statement said. “We are determined to make marathon running a safe haven from doping. In addition to testing operated by the IAAF and national federations, Abbott WMM has set up one of the largest private testing pool of athletes in the sport, with the aim of testing 150 competitors out of competition a minimum of six times a year.”
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Sumgong also won the 2016 London Marathon despite a late-race fall at an aid station. She placed second at the 2014 New York City Marathon and was runner up at the 2013 Chicago Marathon. At the 2014 Boston Marathon she placed third.
At the 2012 Boston Marathon, she placed second and tested positive for prednisolone (a steroidal anti-inflammatory) in her drug test. She was give a two-year competition ban but appealed the decision and won.
Sumgong’s agent, Federico Rosa, was arrested in July in Kenya, charged with six counts of doping athletes, including alleged involvement with Rita Jeptoo, Sumgong’s former training partner who is now also serving a drug suspension. The charges were eventually dropped against Rosa, he was released on bail, and he denied any wrongdoing.
When asked after the Olympic marathon to respond to the suspicion surrounding her race performances, Sumgong was adamant that she had not doped.
“With the Kenyan athletes we are sure we are clean,” Sumgong said in Rio. “Myself, I’m sure I am clean.”