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Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong banned for four years

The Kenyan long-distance runner tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition drug test earlier this year.

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Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong banned for four years

Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong has been handed a four-year suspension after testing positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test.

The Kenyan long-distance runner claimed she was given the banned substance in hospital while undergoing treatment for an ectopic pregnancy six days before she failed the drug test.

However, according to the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak), Sumgong’s testimony is inconsistent.

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the 32-year-old became the first Kenyan woman to win gold in the marathon.

EPO and inconsistent claims

Erythropoietin, also known as EPO, is used commonly to stimulate red blood cell production in the bone narrow. It has also been used illicitly as a performance-enhancing drug.

Sumgong, who failed the doping control on February 28 of this year, claims that she was given the banned substance while being treated in a Nairobi hospital.

Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg inserts itself into a fallopian tube instead of the uterus.

According to the Olympic champion, she was treated with a blood transfusion and an unidentified medication given by an unnamed doctor.

Medical documents provided by the runner were deemed fake by the hospital.

Sumgong argued that the doctor who treated her might have been an impostor, due to a nationwide practitioner’s strike that was taking place at the time of her treatment.

However, this argument was rejected by Adak, who noted that athletes had access to a nearby Armed Forces hospital and that Sumgong had opted against being treated there.

She also stated that her husband, who is also her coach, was unaware of her pregnancy because of taboos surrounding the subject.

Four-year ban

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According to a ruling by the Sports Dispute Tribunal, Sumgong will be banned as of April 3, the date on which she was first suspended, for a period of four years.

The chief executive of Adak, Japhter Rugut, told BBC Sport that Sumgong, who also tested positive for the substance in 2012, was “not cooperative and did not give any information”.

"She has received the sanction she deserves," Rugut said. "If the athlete had maybe assisted in the investigations and in revealing what happened, then there could have been a consideration to repeal the sentence. There was no such assistance from her.

"We believe in the interest of justice. This had to be done. It will become a deterrent for anybody who may believe in doing this [doping]."

Despite the ban, Sumgong will not be stripped of her gold medal from the 2016 Olympics.

Sumgong is one of Kenya’s most successful female athletes, winning the London, Rotterdam and Las Vegas Marathons during her career.

In Rio, she won the marathon with a time of 2:24:04 hours. However, due to her ban she will be unable to defend her title at the Tokyo 2020 Games.


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