Olympic Marathon Champion Jemima Sumgong Tests Positive For EPO

Olympic Marathon Champion Jemima Sumgong Tests Positive For EPO
Photo: Jack Gruber - USA TODAY Sports
Jemima Sumgong, who became Kenya's first female Olympic marathon champion last summer in Rio, tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test by the IAAF, according to Reuters.

An IAAF statement said, "The IAAF can confirm that an anti-doping rule violation case concerning Jemima Sumgong (Kenya) has commenced this week.

"The athlete tested positive for EPO (Erythropoietin) following a no-notice test conducted by the IAAF in Kenya.

"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."

Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain will now likely be upgraded to the Olympic gold medal in the marathon. She was second to Sumgong in Rio in 2:24:13. Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia could be upgraded from bronze to silver, and Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia could be upgraded to bronze. The top American in the marathon was Shalane Flanagan, who placed sixth in 2:25:26.

Just a week ago, Flanagan was upgraded from bronze to silver for her performance in the 2008 Olympic Games 10K after a sample belonging to Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse was retested and found to contain steroids. She was stripped of her results from 2007 to 2009, which also upgraded fellow American Kara Goucher from bronze to silver for her 10K at the 2007 IAAF World Championships.

It should be noted that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the organization that controls whether or not athletes will receive a medal upgrade after a doping violation affects the results of the Olympic Games. The process is lengthy, and often takes years, if at all.


There may be more at stake for Sumgong than returning her Olympic gold medal. Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta signed a law last April that criminalizes doping. Athletes found guilty of doping-related offenses could be required to serve up to three years in prison and pay a fine of $30,000. Athletes who refuse to take a drug test, or fail a drug test as Sumgong did, could be sent to jail for one year.

Other notable recent performances by Sumgong include winning the 2016 London Marathon, for which she earned $80,000 in prize money; placing fourth at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in the marathon, third at the 2014 Boston Marathon, second at the 2014 New York City Marathon, and sixth at the 2015 London Marathon. She set her PB of 2:20:41 at the Boston Marathon in 2014; she had run 2:23 earlier that year in Rotterdam in what was her first sub-2:30 performance since 2011, when she ran her prior PB of 2:28:32 in Castellón. Since then, Sumgong has hovered in the 2:20-2:25 range every year.

Sumgong's former training partner is Rita Jeptoo; the three-time Boston Marathon champion was served with a four-year ban after testing positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test in 2014. Sumgong also shares an agent with Jeptoo, the Italian Federico Rosa, who was charged with six counts of doping athletes last summer in Kenya.


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