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While the saga of Kenyan doping continues, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) deals with a myriad of issues, not just positive test results. For example, the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is used to indicate anomalies in blood tests that can indicate doping. The athlete does not necessarily have to test positive in this case. Tampering seems to be common or misleading of doping control officers and the AIU. Athletes are missing tests. When they miss three within a 12-month period, they are suspended, as if testing positive. And there is the appeals process. In some cases, athletes are permitted to compete again as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will dismiss the AIU’s findings.
Michael Njenga Kunyuga banned for eight years
Kenyan Michael Njenga Kunyuga was handed an eight-year suspension by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for the use of the prohibited substance Nandrolone as well as tampering.
Njenga was punished for lying to anti-doping officials following his provisional suspension in August this year.
The 36-year-old tested positive at the 2022 Riga Marathon in Latvia, where he finished second. He tested positive for Nandrolone (19-nortestosterone).
The AIU has banned Michael Njenga Kunyuga (Kenya) for 8 years, from 1 August 2022, for the Presence of a Prohibited Substance (19-norandrosterone); Use of a Prohibited Substance (Nandrolone or Nandrolone precursors); and Tampering. DQ results since 15 May 2022. pic.twitter.com/vqF9I5BKAl— Athletics Integrity Unit (@aiu_athletics) November 3, 2023
The AIU then began an investigation into the case. Njenga was given the option of accepting liability to benefit from a reduced suspension by one year but he denied all allegations.
He claimed that he experienced knee and back pain in 2021 and took painkillers to ease the pain. Apparently, it had an adverse effect on his stomach, so he stopped taking them.
He said in January 2022, he had been advised to seek alternative medication for his knee pain because he could not manage his training load. He claims he went for a check-up at the Nyahururu County Referral Hospital and was prescribed injections of Depomedrol every three months.
To support his explanation, Njenga submitted two medical documents dated January 18, 2022. Apparently from the Nyahururu County Referral Hospital to a Laboratory Request and Report Form, and a letter from a doctor at the hospital, confirming that he had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and that he was to be treated by intramuscular injection of Depomedrol (methylprednisolone) and vitamin B complex.
On September 1, 2022, the AIU wrote to Njenga indicating that his explanation and documents related to ingestion of Depomedrol and vitamin B complex did not explain the presence of 19- Norandrosterone in his sample.
Njenga owns a marathon best of 2:06:38 from the 2020 Sevilla Marathon. Otherwise, he seemed to be a perpetual 2:10-level runner.
Norah Jeruto’s ban lifted
Norah Jeruto of Kazakhstan is a former Kenyan athlete. She is the 2022 World 3000m steeplechase champion and has been cleared of doping after claiming that ulcers as well as a bout of COVID-19 explain her unusual blood test results.
A disciplinary tribunal dismissed the charge and lifted a provisional suspension. This allows Jeruto to compete immediately. The AIU, which, said Friday it “will review the decision before deciding whether to appeal” to the CAS.
Jeruto did not test positive, however, there were anomalies in her blood profile in 2020 and 2021. They were unusual enough to count as evidence of doping.
A panel of the Disciplinary Tribunal has found, by majority decision, that the case against Norah Jeruto (Kazakhstan), for Use of a Prohibited Substance/Method (ABP), was not proven. Her provisional suspension has been lifted with immediate effect. pic.twitter.com/KxJs5Yt7DZ— Athletics Integrity Unit (@aiu_athletics) November 3, 2023
The AIU said that a set of samples indicated Jeruto had blood extracted as part of a banned “transfusion strategy.” Treating one’s own blood in a lab and re-injecting is a common practice. In this case, she seemed to have a profile indicating EPO uses, the red blood cell booster.
Jeruto claims that she suffers from ulcers which flare up from time to time. This allegedly happens when she is stressed and has repeatedly been hospitalized for it.
The samples from late 2020 could be explained by the effects of Jeruto contracting COVID-19, rather than using EPO, her defense said. The tribunal said that raised “sufficient doubt on this part of the case that it would be unfair to convict.”
“It may be that even in such (ABP) cases few are as complex, or involve a dispute as to the scientific evidence between reputable experts in the way this case did,” the tribunal concluded.
Jeruto started running for Kazakhstan in 2023. She missed the Tokyo Olympics while she waited for the change in her nationality, which is a World Athletics rule to limit the practice of becoming a so-called plastic athlete, meaning switching allegiance solely for competitive reasons. At the 2022 Eugene World Athletics Championship, she ran the then-third-fastest women’s 3000m steeplechase time in history.
Before the switch, Jeruto was the world’s second-fastest in the steeplechase. She holds the national record at 8:53.02 from the Eugene championships.