London - Jemima
Sumgong, the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold in the marathon
when she triumphed in Rio last year, has failed an out-of-competition
dope test, athletics officials said on Friday.
The 32-year-old, who is also the reigning London Marathon champion,
tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO in a test by the
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in her native
"The IAAF can confirm that an anti-doping rule violation case
concerning the athlete Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (Kenya) has commenced this
week," the IAAF said.
"The athlete tested positive for EPO following a no-notice test conducted by the IAAF in Kenya," the sport's ruling body added.
"This was part of an enhanced IAAF out-of-competition testing
programme dedicated to elite marathon runners which is supported by the
Abbott World Marathon Majors group. The IAAF will make no further
statement about this case until its conclusion."
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a natural hormone that stimulates red cell
production. For a runner, injecting an artificially produced version
increases oxygen absorption which allows them to run harder and faster
Sumgong, who also tested positive for a banned substance in 2012,
starred at the London Marathon last year, 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.
Before news of her positive drugs test emerged, Sumgong had vowed to defend her London title on April 23.
London Marathon organisers said they were "extremely disappointed" at Sumgong's failed test.
"She is currently suspended from competition pending the B test and
the outcome of the investigation. Sumgong will therefore not run in
London on April 23 to defend the title she won last year," announced the
race's chief executive Nick Bitel.
He said that "athletes who are banned for a doping offence are banned for life from the event."
At the Rio Olympics, Sumgong defied temperatures of 28 degrees
Celsius to claim an historic gold medal in a race that finished at
the city's famed Sambodromo.
"I was never worried that I'd lose," said Sumgong, who added that
victory made up for a disappointing showing at the 2008 Beijing
Olympics. "At the 40 kilometre mark I knew the gold was mine."
The athlete has not spoken out since the news of her failed doping
test, however she posted a Bible verse on her Facebook page which said
"do not be anxious about anything..."
Kenya said that if it was true that Sumgong had failed the dope test it
was "extremely shocking and disappointing" to the whole nation.
In a statement the body said that it had worked "tirelessly to put in
place measures to fight and eradicate the use and abuse of prohibited
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.
"It will be easy for us now to communicate with these doctors before we take any medicine when the need arises," said Sumgong.
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.
Kenyan athletics boss chief Jackson Tuwei has warned that any athlete
who failed to comply would not be selected to represent the country in
"Forty-nine athletes have been found to have violated the WADA (World
Anti-Doping Agency) code in the past five years but were cautioned
according to the laws of the land and WADA code," said Tuwei.
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.
News of Sumgong's test was welcomed by other athletes. US distance
runner Emma Coburn, a bronze medallist in the 3,000m steeplechase at
last year's Olympics, applauded the IAAF's out-of-competition testing.
"Out of competition testing is so important!! Well done, IAAF. I hope
to see more productive results from no-notice out of competition
tests," Coburn tweeted.
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