The world governing body of athletics has announced that Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong tested positive for the blood booster Erythropoietin also known as EPO in a surprise out-of-competition doping test in Kenya.
The reigning London Marathon champion who has finished runner-up at the Boston, Chicago and New York City Marathons became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic gold in the marathon at last year's Rio de Janeiro Games. Sumgong was the points’ leader in the World Marathon Majors series and was in line to receive a $250,000 US bonus when the cycle of two years cycle is completed in Boston on April 17. The World Marathon Majors series said it would not name a women's winner until doping officials have resolved her case.
The 32-year-old had an impressive year in 2016 when she won the London Marathon in April and later claimed the elusive Olympic gold in Rio despite being disturbed by a protester on the course. Eunice Jepkirui, who switched allegiance to Bahrain in 2013 and the former compatriot of Sumgong, took silver. Eliud Kipchoge had won the men’s race to complete a Kenyan double.
In a statement, the International Association of Athletics Federations said the athlete tested positive for EPO following a no-notice test conducted by the IAAF in Kenya. The athletics' world governing body added the test of Sumgong was part of an enhanced IAAF out-of-competition testing program dedicated to elite marathon runners; the program is run jointly by the IAAF and the World Marathon Majors series.
It was announced by organizers of the London Marathon that Jemima Sumgong failed the test in February and would not be allowed to defend her title this month while she was provisionally suspended. The positive test of Sumgong is now the highest profile of dozens of Kenyan athletes to have failed doping tests since the 2012 London Olympics. Sumgong is the second Kenyan woman to test positive for EPO while leading the world marathon series after Rita Jeptoo who was the top women's marathon runner in the world when she failed an out-of-competition test in Kenya in 2014. Jeptoo, Sumgong’s former training partner, was banned for a period of 4 years after she tested positive for EPO in 2014.
It was earlier claimed by Kenyan officials that the vast majority of Kenyan athletes to fail doping tests in the recent past were lower level runners and officials had claimed that the top Olympians were clean.
Tim Hadzima, the World Marathon Majors general manager, remarked the series was distressed to learn of reports that Sumgong had failed a doping test but that if true, they indicate that we are gaining ground in our long-standing fight against doping.
The race's chief executive said Sumgong will now miss the London Marathon on April 23. Nick Bitel remarked we are determined to make marathon running a safe haven from doping. Bitel also commented that the test of Sumgong was part of the world marathon series' efforts to target 150 top marathon runners in out-of-competition tests every year.
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