The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Athletics: Former Olympic champion Kiprop banned for 4 years for doping

Associated Press Saturday, 20 April 2019, 20:53 Last update: about 5 months ago

Former Olympic and three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya was banned for four years Saturday for testing positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO after his claim that urine samples might have been tampered with by disreputable doping control officers was rejected.

The 2008 Olympic 1,500-meter champion failed an out-of-competition test in his home country in November 2017. His backup "B'' sample also tested positive for EPO.

But his case was complicated when it was revealed he was given advance notice of the visit by Kenyan anti-doping officers — a breach of testing protocol. Out-of-competition tests are meant to be sprung on athletes by surprise to ensure they have no time to flush any banned substances out of their systems.

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Kiprop also conceded he paid money to one of the anti-doping officers following the test. He denied the doping charges and alleged he may have been framed.

The 29-year-old Kiprop, who won three straight world titles from 2011-2015, said his samples could have been tampered with when he left them unattended for a short time while he got his cellphone to make a money transfer to the anti-doping official.

In a separate defense, he also said the elevated levels of EPO in his system might have been "natural EPO" caused by intense training at high altitude in Kenya. Another defense Kiprop used was that medication he took a week before the test might have caused the positive result.

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for the IAAF, rejected all of Kiprop's explanations and banned him from competition until February 2022. His results from Nov. 27, 2017 to Feb. 3, 2018 were disqualified. The ban was backdated to start from February 2018.

"There is no justice in the world," Kiprop said Saturday in response to his ban. "Not every prisoner in jail is guilty. I will consult my lawyer to see if I will appeal at CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport), but no matter the outcome I will be back stronger."

But Kiprop's denials throughout the case and a history of speaking out against doping could not outweigh the scientific evidence against him, the AIU disciplinary panel wrote in its decision.

"There is, alas, in doping as in all fields of human activity a first time for everything and denial, the record shows, is the currency of the guilty and the innocent alike," the panel wrote.

The AIU said the advance notice of the test and the $30 that Kiprop paid to the anti-doping officer — apparently for miscellaneous expenses like refreshments and gas for his car — was clearly improper but couldn't have affected the test findings.

His case cast further doubt on the strength of the anti-doping program in Kenya, the distance-running powerhouse that has had its reputation badly eroded by dozens of drug cases in recent years.

Kiprop was awarded the gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after race winner Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain failed a doping test and had his medal stripped.

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