The athletics world was in shock as news that Olympic marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong had tested positive for banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO) in an out-of-competition test.
Athletics Kenya’s Athletes representative Milcah Chemos was lost for words to explain the turn of events.
“We can only hope the “B” Sample will come out negative since this is 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.
“Even if you take these banned substances and do some cover up, the passport will reveal because the blood levels will be different,” explained Chemos, who has been awarded two silver medals in 3,000m steeplechase from the 2009 and 2011 World Championships and bronze from 2012 London Olympics after her rivals failed drug tests.
United States-based Betsy Saina, who represented Kenya in 10,000m at the Rio Olympics, was also in shock.
“Reputation is the biggest worry now! But everyone should carry their cross! Good news 40 days is always a guarantee! #RunClean,” said Saina.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics 10,000m bronze medallist Shalane Flanagan reacted to Sumgong’s predicament on her Twitter handle @ShalaneFlanagan: “What is real anymore?”
London Marathon organisers said following the development, Sumgong will not be allowed to defend her London Marathon title during the race due April 23 this 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 CEO Nick Bitel.
Sumgong won last year’s World Marathon Majors for a share of US$ 1million (Sh100million) with fellow Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge.
Sumgong is currently the leader in the World Marathon Majors Series standings, which concludes in Boston on April 17.
Under WMM rules, if she were to finish top of the rankings at the end of the Series, an athlete who fails a drug test and is banned is not eligible to win the Series or to receive any prize money.
Olympic 5,000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri cautioned that Kenya was still under World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and International Associations of Athletics Federation (IAAF) 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.