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Tough times for Sumgong after positive doping test

Friday April 7 2017

Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong celebrates her victory in the Women's Marathon during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. PHOTO | AFP

Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong celebrates her victory in the Women's Marathon during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. PHOTO | AFP  

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Jemimah Sumgong’s world collapsed on Friday after news she had tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance EPO but the Olympic champion maintained her innocence saying she “trains hard.”

News agencies broke the story at dawn Friday revealing that Sumgong, 32, the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold in the marathon in Rio last year, had failed an out-of-competition dope test.

The agencies quoted the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

“The IAAF can confirm that an anti-doping rule violation case concerning the athlete Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (Kenya) has commenced this week,” Reuters quoted the IAAF as saying.

Sumgong, also the defending London Marathon champion had her phone switched of all day but later posted on her Facebook page saying she hadn’t been given any information and maintained she trains hard.

“I train extremely hard. That’s the only way to succeed in athletics. I’m yet to receive the news. Good evening all,” she posted at about 4:30pm Friday.


London Marathon and Olympic champion Jemimah Sumgong jogs during a past training session. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

London Marathon and Olympic champion Jemimah Sumgong jogs during a past training session. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |NATION MEDIA GROUP

Following the disclosure, London Marathon organisers said they have banned Sumgong from defending her title on April 23 after failing the drug test.

Sumgong, who is currently also the leader in the World Marathon Majors Series standings which concludes in Boston on April 17, tested positive for the banned blood-booster Erythropoietin (EPO) in an out-of-competition test carried out by the IAAF in February this year.

If Sumgong was to finish top of the rankings at conclusion of the WMM series, she would have been eligible to win the series and a share of the $ 1 million (Sh100 million) jackpot with men’s series winner.

Sumgong made history as the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic marathon title at the Rio Summer Games in August last year.


“We are extremely disappointed to learn that Jemima Sumgong (Kenya) failed an out of competition drugs test in February.

“She is currently suspended from competition pending the ‘B’ test and the outcome of the investigation,” said a statement from London Marathon chief executive officer Nick Bitel.

“Sumgong will, therefore, not run in London on April 23 to defend the title she won last year.”

Kenya's Jemima Sumgong wins the Elite Women's

Kenya's Jemima Sumgong wins the Elite Women's race of the 2016 London Marathon in central London on April 24, 2016. AFP PHOTO | JUSTIN TALLIS

Bitel said an athlete who fails a drug test and is banned is not eligible to win the series or to receive any prize money adding that Sumgong will be no exception after he provisional positive test came from one of the WMM-funded out of competition tests.

“We are determined to make marathon running a safe haven from doping.

“In addition to testing operated by the IAAF and national federations, the WMM has set up one of the largest private testing pool of athletes in sport, with the aim being to test 150 competitors out of competition a minimum of six times a year,” said Bitel.

Bitel said that London Marathon Events Ltd and WMM will continue to do everything to ensure cheats are caught and do not benefit from cheating.

“The London Marathon has always been at the forefront of the fight against doping.

“In addition, London Marathon Events will take legal proceedings against athletes who have been disqualified from its events for failed tests if they do not repay money that they have received from the event.”

Athletics Kenya noted that the development is “extremely shocking and disappointing not only to Athletics Kenya but to the entire nation of Kenya.”

However, the statement from AK said that the contents of the notification from IAAF still remain confidential in order to protect the rights of Sumgong.

“We are unable to make any further comments in regard to the matter at this point and we shall issue a comprehensive statement once the process is complete,” said the statement from AK.

AK appealed to all athletes to familiarise themselves with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list of substances and to firmly desist from the use of any prohibited substance.

Athletics Kenya Athletes’ representative Milcah Chemos said she was lost for words considering that it has happened when the country is still on the spotlight concerning doping.

“We can only hope the “B” Sample will come out negative since it’s a sad coming from a top elite athlete,” said Chemos, who advised fellow athletes to look at their biological passports well before they engage in doping.

Chemos, who has been a victim of dopers said she knows how it feels when an athlete is denied his or her moment of glory by drug cheats. The IAAF has awarded Chemos two silver medals in 3,000 metres steeplechase from the 2009 and 2011 World Championships after her rivals failed drug tests.
Chemos is also set to get bronze from 2012 London Olympics.

Olympic 5,00m silver medallist Hellen Obiri cautioned that Kenya was still under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s radar and such cases can lead to sanctions.

“We need to be extra careful, remember what happened to Russia. We don’t want our country to be banned from sports,” said Obiri.

Sumgong is the first high profiled Kenya athlete to face doping sanction since former Boston and Chicago marathon champion Rita Jeptoo in 2014 and 2013 World Cross Country champion Emily Chebet in 2015.

Besides Chebet, three other Kenyan athletes were sanctioned for doping in 2015. 

They are Agatha Jeruto, who won silver in women’s 4x800 metres relay at the 2014 World Relay Championships in Bahamas, and sprinters Joyce Sakari and Francisca Koki.