Defending champion says positive dope tests are a result of ignorance amongst Kenyans
Wilson Kipsang, the London Marathon champion, has launched an impassioned defence of Kenyan athletes, insisting that the majority of failed drugs tests are due to ignorance and sabotage.
More than 30 Kenyans have tested positive over the past three years with Rita Jeptoo, last year’s Chicago and Boston marathon winner, the highest profile athlete to be caught and banned for Erythropoietin, or EPO.
Kipsang, who will defend his London title on Sunday in a race in which the fastest six runners are all Kenyan, says he does not believe the majority of his countrymen and women found guilty of doping have intentionally taken illicit substances.
Instead he argues that positive tests are usually caused by a lack of education and coaches deliberately misusing banned substances, in some cases to sabotage runners.
“We have people taking advantage of the ignorance of some guys,” Kipsang said. “A manager might take an athlete to a doctor and he is given something and when he comes to be tested, he is positive.
“Many of the athletes don’t even know what EPO is but some people can have a plan to destroy an athlete’s career. It is very easy for you to take advantage of the ignorance of an athlete.
“There was a lady who was banned for six months, but if you listen to her story she went to a race, she had flu, was given a serum to help it but she didn’t know what was in it and was banned for six months.
“There is no awareness. Many people trust others and find that the other person messes up, especially when they are new to the sport.”
Allegations of widespread doping among Kenyan athletes were first made by German broadcaster ARD in 2012 and the number of runners testing positive for drugs has continued to increase since.
Calling for Athletics Kenya to increase doping education among athletes, Kipsang, who is also president of the Professional Athletes Association of Kenya, said it was frustrating when people doubted his ability because of other people’s transgressions.
He said he had already been tested six times this calendar year and welcomed changes brought in at the start of 2015 to increase the minimum ban for drugs cheats from two to four years.
“It is just a few [Kenyans] who have doped,” he said. “Compared to the number of athletes in total it is less than one per cent. Most athletes have taken tests and they are very clean, so they should be trusted.
“It’s not easy hearing these stories. It’s not good for the athletes or for a country like Kenya and not good for athletics, the sport itself. If one person has doped he or she should take the responsibility, not the other athletes.”
Kipsang has won his past three major marathons and, attempting to become only the fourth man to win three times in London, says his main competition will come from Dennis Kimetto, who took his world record last September. Despite being a farmer until the age of 24 and not competing in an international race until three years ago, Kimetto, 31, ran 2 hr 2 min 57 sec in Berlin.
The two pre-race favourites will have company from a number of other elite Kenyans, including Emmanuel Mutai, the second fastest marathon runner in history, Stanley Biwott, last year’s London runner-up, and Eliud Kipchoge, the Chicago Marathon winner.
While Kipsang and Kimetto often train together as part of a 60-strong group in the running stronghold of Iten, Sunday will be the first time the pair have clashed over 26.2 miles, with the score reading one all in half-marathons.
“I’m expecting a big challenge from Dennis,” said Kipsang, who set the London course record of 2-04-29 last year.
“I broke the world record in Berlin in 2013, then he broke the record last year. My main aim is not the world record but to retain the title and run a good time.
“With this kind of field, it will be a fast race and more tactical. We will start to keep the pace up and then we’ll see what happens.”