Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong banned for eight years

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Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong has been banned from competing for eight years by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), as she’s judged to have lied following a positive drug test.

The governing body’s Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) says the 34-year-old Kenyan provided “fraudulent medical information” in trying to explain why a test sample contained the performance-enhancing substance r-EPO.

Sumgong, who took gold at Rio 2016, was already serving a four year ban.

In trying to clear her name, she wrote a letter to the AIU saying she had been treated by a doctor for symptoms including abdominal pain, but did not know what medicine she had been given.

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She then alleged that she’d been given an injection at a hospital in Nairobi after complaining of heavy bleeding, which she believed was EPO.

The athlete said she had a history of ectopic pregnancy, when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, often in one of the fallopian tubes.

Kenya’s Anti-Doping Agency (ADAK) was told she’d had a blood transfusion, but when requesting confirmation from Kenyatta National Hospital, a doctor said there was “no indication” that she had been seen there around the time of giving the urine sample in February 2017.

Dr Peter Michoma also said that EPO injections were “not standard practice” and suggested the former London Marathon winner  had sent “fake” medical documents to officials.

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A tribunal in Kenya in October 2017 decided to ban her for four years, which the AIU subsequently investigated.

Sumgong and her lawyers attacked the evidence of Dr Michoma, and argued that the AIU had failed to prove that her explanation and documents were false.

She failed to comply with a request for further information about her travel to Nairobi and the unit found that she had been in Kapsabet in another part of the country. The chair of the panel looking into the case concluded “she could not be in two places at once”.

After a struggle to get hold of the athlete and her representatives, it was decided that she’d had adequate time to respond. An eight year ban was handed down, with reference to this not being the first doping violation of the Kenyan’s career.

The distance runner had previously apologised and promised to return at the end of her previous ban until 2021, but this now looks far less likely.

On it’s own, erythropoietin (EPO) is a protein released naturally by kidneys, which helps red blood cells to be produced in the bone marrow.

r-EPO is a blood doping agent that is used to increase the number of these cells, which play an important role in carrying oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. More red blood cells therefore improves the amount of oxygen that can be carried to the muscles.

There is no disqualification of results as a result of this decision. Jemima Sumgong can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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First published on: 25 January, 2019 2:43 pm

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