No way back for Sumgong after doping ban

(LtoR) Bahrain's Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (silver) Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (silver) and Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba (...
(LtoR) Bahrain's Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (silver) Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (silver) and Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba (bronze) pose during the podium ceremony for the Women's Marathon during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong is set to be the first casualty of a decision by Athletics Kenya (AK) to hand life bans to Kenyan dope cheats.

Sumgong was Tuesday banned for four years by the Anti-doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) after her claim she was taking blood-booster EPO for an ectopic pregnancy was rejected.

AK President, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei had earlier warned that no athlete will be allowed to race again if found to have doped, placing Sumgong in line to become the first a lifetime expulsion.

“Let me announce it here, from today onwards any athlete found to have doped and punished according to regulations of The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), for whatever period of time, after the expiry of that time we will never allow him or her to represent Kenya in any event,” the AK boss said during the Launch of a nationwide campaign to fight doping in Kenya held in Nyahururu, Laikipia County on November 2.

“This applies in all events be it commonwealth, world championships, diamond league and even local events, you will never run again, our aim is to protect clean athletes we will lock you out forever.”

Sumgong, who became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic marathon gold at the Rio Summer Games in Brazil last year, was officially banned on October 31 but it will be backdated to April 3. It means she will not be able to defend her title at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 32-year-old has been serving a provisional suspension since April 3 when she tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test by the IAAF.

Sumgong, who also tested positive for a banned substance in 2012, starred at the London Marathon in 2016, defying the odds to win despite suffering a bruising fall.

Steeled by her success in London, she then became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic marathon gold, defeating Ethiopia’s world champion Mare Dibaba in Rio to confirm her status as the world’s top marathon runner of 2016.

Due to her suspension she was unable to defend the title in London this year.

Earlier this year, Sumgong was one of a number of top Kenyan athletes who welcomed a new initiative to eradicate doping, which has tarnished their image, agreeing to be monitored by doctors appointed by the IAAF and Athletics Kenya.

The move came after an investigation by German television channel ARD and Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper last July alleging that doping was rife at the elite training centre in Iten.

Sumgong’s former training partner, the 2014 Chicago and Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo, is serving a four-year ban after also testing positive for EPO.

In 2012 Sumgong tested positive for steroid Prednisolone following the Boston marathon. She only served half of a two year ban after a successful appeal blamed the failed control on treatment for a hip injury.

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Story By Philip Muchiri
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