© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
Rita Jeptoo, the Kenyan marathon runner who was caught testing positive for the banned blood booster, EPO, emerged from her discipline hearing with Athletics Kenya (AK) at their headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday, January 16th. There was no decision handed down on her pending suspension from competition.
Perhaps AK has her cornered as apparently officials urged her to “spill the beans”.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recently increased first-time drug suspensions from two years to four years. They also added that they will provide leniency to drug cheats who help to provide information; in short expose other athletes and enablers who may be coaches, agents, doctors or officials.
Perhaps this new leniency policy will come into play while the IAAF and AK confer regarding the final decision.
Isaac Mwangi, a Kenyan medical commission member told reporters, “We have garnered a lot of information, from the meeting.”
Jeptoo’s ex-husband also attended the hearing. Since her positive test, he has implicated her to the media suggesting long-term doping to as far back as at least 2011. This is in contrast to her claiming to have malaria and that a physician that she saw treated her with EPO, which happens to be a go-to standard defence by East African athletes.
Athletics Kenya Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat told AFP, “We are hoping the hearing will shed light on who is behind this doping scam.”
Additionally, her coach Claudio Berardelli and agent Frederico Rosa have distanced themselves from Jeptoo. In fact it was her agent Rosa, who made the claims about Jeptoo going to a doctor who was unknown to both of them, to secretly get treatment for the supposed case of malaria; he threw her under the bus.
The new WADA code has added language to include agents, doctors and coaches who can face suspension upon an athlete’s guilty verdict.
Considering AK delayed in delivering a suspension speaks to the volume of information that was gathered during the 12 hours of meetings. Additionally, the new four-year, first-time suspension rule was written after Jeptoo‘s test was carried out and after the results came to light. Does WADA or the IAAF have the ability legally-speaking, to give her a four-year ban? Doing so would effectively end her career.
They may give her a very short ban, in respect to her implicating others.
Whether Jeptoo returns the favour to Berardelli and Rosa by throwing them under the proverbial bus or not remains to be seen, however, doping in Kenya appears to be a much larger problem than originally thought. She may need to share everything she knows (and more) in order to get a short enough ban, so to continue to race and earn money, as she may be required to pay back previous earnings. At 33 years of age, she has little time left. She may be desperate. Desperate times call for desperate measures. AK may have her cornered.
However, if it was her own National Sport Organisation (NSO) AK who conducted the closed-door hearing (not known at this time), will they provide her with the same suspension that the IAAF or WADA would? She is one of the biggest names in Kenyan running.
Another hearing will be held in two weeks, Mwangi said.
Jeptoo is a three-time winner of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon and owns the course record of 2:18:57. She is a two-time winner of the Chicago Marathon. Her two best marathon times have happened during 2013 and 2014 with her 2:19:47 in Chicago performance as well as her Boston performance. Both of these results are much faster than any of her others; the only times she broke the 2:20 barrier. As the World Marathon Majors champion for 2014, she stood to win $500,000 in addition to her individual race prizes. She was disqualified from earning the award.
Athletics Illustrated helped to expose a story by ARD German television in 2012, where journalist Hajo Seppelt went undercover as an agent to Kenya to see if he could gain access to performance enhancing drugs. This story exposed doping in Kenya including the famous open testimony of Matthew Kisorio.
Since then, there has been an increase in positive test results by Kenyans. Additionally, the IAAF is building the first on-site testing centre in the Rift Valley; however, they have been met with resistance from AK, including chairman Kiplagat.