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Kenyan Sharon Lokedi was not tested for performance-enhancing drugs leading up to the 2022 New York City Marathon that she won in surprise fashion on Sunday, November 6.
Lokedi won the race in the time of two hours and 23 minutes and 23 seconds. But it is not her time that raises eyebrows, it is who she beat along the way. Finishing second was former Kenyan (Isreal) Lonah Salpeter (2:17:45, pb), Ethiopian Gotytom Gebreslase (2:18:11, pb), Kenyan Viola Cheptoo (2:22:44, pb) among others.
Apparently, her prior performances did not put her into the Athletics Integrity Unit’s (AIU) testing pool.
The AIU tests the top 80 athletes, which include the World Athletics’ top 40 men and top 40 women competing in their respective events. Perhaps, this could be expanded.
However, Kenya currently has the most athletes suspended due to doping, tampering, whereabouts program failures, or anomalies in blood value markers, as indicated in their individual Athlete Biological Passports. Approximately 30 athletes have been suspended so far in 2022. This number would decimate many national teams, however, not Kenya, as their depth seems unlimited.
Some media has reported that Lokedi was largely unknown until New York, where she ran her debut, but this is simply false.
The 28-year-old has run at least five new personal bests in 2022. Her progression, to be fair, does not set off alarm bells. She has progressed steadily over the 5000m, 10,000m, and half-marathon distances. She just didn’t quite get to the top 40 rankings. Additionally, she was overshadowed by fellow Kenyans — a country with nearly incomparable depth.
In 2021, she ran the half-marathon distance in the time of 69:53 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. The performance matches where the rest of her race results have landed over shorter distances. This year, she set a new personal best of 68:14 in New York. Her 10K road times have also progressively improved running annual bests in 2019, 2021, and 2022 in the times of 32:05, 31:53, then 31:06, respectively.
Three years in a row, her annual bests in the 10,000m were in the 31-minute range. Four years ago she was just outside that benchmark at 32:09:20. Five years in a row, she ran mid-15s for 5000m as annual bests. She did have a jump in performance in 2017 from 16:47.97 in 2016 to 15:44.51 in 2017. But she was age 22 at the time and competing in the NCAA. Young enough to naturally experience staccato jumps in performance.
Her NCAA career had a similar trajectory culminating in her winning the NCAA championships in outdoor track in the 10,000m event at 32:09.94 in 2018. She was already repeatedly running in the 32-minute range leading up to that championship race.
Lokedi attended the University of Kansas and competed for the Jayhawks for four years studying nursing and business.
She was fast in her teens too as she was named her school’s best athlete at the Kapkenda Girls’ School.
Her performance in New York puts her on the list as number 40 to join her top competitors from the New York Marathon in the testing pool.