Lagat failed drugs test, says IAAF
Athletics Kenya decided to keep the matter secret
By PETER NJENGA
Bernard Lagat: Tested positive for EPO .
Olympic Games 1,500m bronze medallist Bernard Lagat tested positive for drugs, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has said.
Lagat left the Kenyan camp in Paris immediately after his team officials were informed that the runner had tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, Erythropoietin (EPO), two weeks before the world championships began.
The runner, who had transported his parents to Paris to watch him run, took a low profile for the rest of the championships.
Team manager Alf Kimani said a decision was made by Athletics Kenya officials to withhold the information from the rest of the team so that morale was not affected.
The team was instead, informed that Lagat was suffering from a stomach ailment.
Kimani, a medical doctor, was informed on August 21 that the 'A' Sample of Lagat's urine had tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug.
This was a day after the team arrived in France for the August 23-31 championships.
After discreet consultations, Athletics Kenya decided to withdraw Lagat from the championships, citing medical reasons. Not even sports minister Najib Balala, who visited the athletes at the camp, was informed of the devastating news.
"The team's spirit would have been broken," said Kimani, who said they were now awaiting the outcome of a test carried out on Lagat's 'B' sample.
Kimani had spoken with Lagat and broke the news to him shortly after the Kenya team was accredited for the games.
Athletics Kenya will meet today in Nairobi to discuss the Lagat issue.
"A statement will be issued later," said Mr Kimani.
Kimani said they had to agonise for long hours before making a decision. "We had his parents here (in Paris). The team and I decided to do what was best for Kenya."
Kimani, also the chairman of the Athletics Kenya medical commission, said it would have been morally wrong to go public with the news when Lagat's parents were in town. His mother and father were accredited as part of the Kenyan team but were staying with Lagat at a hotel.
Lagat was expected to be Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj's greatest threat in the 1,500m. In his absence, El Guerrouj not only won his fourth world title, but also won a silver medal in the 5,000m.
Lagat, based in the United States, finished third in the national trials behind Paul Korir and Isaac Songok. He won won a silver medal at the world championships in Edmonton, Canada two years ago.
Four months ago, Pamela Chepchumba, a cross-country runner, was suspended from international competitions for two years when she tested positive for EPO. She denied she had taken the drug but the B sample turned out positive.
Erythropoietin is a naturally occurring hormone, produced by the kidneys, which stimulates the body to produce more red blood cells.
The purpose of the red blood cell is to deliver oxygen to the body.
The drug is often introduced to the body artificially by injection to increase the volume of oxygen in the body, thereby boosting performance.
EPO is used to treat anaemia. It has become more widely known as a drug used by athletes but its use in sport is illegal and can be detected through tests.