October 31, 2014
NEW YORK — The news of Rita Jeptoo‘s positive “A” drug test for EPO was only a few hours old when the international women’s field arrived at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday morning for pre-race media availability ahead of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. For many of the runners, the news was an unfortunate Halloween trick — one of the women’s favorite, Mary Keitany, was still struggling to process the news as she’d only learned about Jeptoo 20 minutes before we spoke to her.
We spoke to a number of athletes and journalists about Jeptoo and a range of other topics, Sunday’s race chief among them. You can find those interviews below, but we start with the two people in New York closest to Jeptoo — her coach Claudio Berardelli and manager Federico Rosa.
Coach Claudio Berardelli said he never suspected anything despite spending four days a week with Jeptoo
“I feel stupid…I feel like I’m no longer able to do this job — I don’t know what is my real impact because now it seems like there is something going on behind the scenes,” said Berardelli, who has coached Jeptoo since 2012.
Berardelli feels that the news about Jeptoo is indicative of a larger problem in Kenya. He said that when an athlete such as Jeptoo tests positive (if her B sample indeed turns up positive), it bad for the reputation of the sport in that country .”It will destroy the system,” Berardelli said.
Berardelli spoke to Jeptoo briefly this morning, saying that she told him she was confused and didn’t understand what was happening. He added that Jeptoo hasn’t admitted anything yet. His relationship with the five-time major champion is now in jeopardy if her positive test stands up.
“If the story of Rita can be the key to open the door of the dirty system, please let Rita pay for it,” Berardelli said.
Berardelli’s stance is admirable, but Jeptoo’s positive A sample also casts doubt on the Italian coach. She is the third of his athletes to test positive, following Mathew Kisorio (who admitted his steroid use and was banned) and Jemima Sumgong (racing NYC on Sunday), whose two-year ban was terminated after an appeal. Kisorio tried to rejoin Berardelli’s group recently but the Italian rejected his offer, saying that he wants nothing to do with a convicted doper.
Berardelli maintained that the news about Jeptoo came as a surprise. He said that he knows what he is doing with his athletes but couldn’t be sure what they do when he is not around.
Federico Rosa said he and Berardelli gave nothing to do with Jeptoo’s positive; he added he has an idea who may have been involved
Jeptoo’s agent Federico Rosa was disappointed with the news of Jeptoo’s positive and equally adamant that he had nothing to do it. He expressed 100% confidence that Berardelli was not involved either. He said he could not confirm what the positive test was for (the AFP later said it was EPO) and was open to the idea that Jeptoo had used drugs.
He said he had been working with the IAAF behind the scenes on drug-related issues in Kenya. When asked if he thought there was a doping problem in Kenya, he responded that “if there wasn’t a problem you wouldn’t be talking to me [today].” He also indicated he had an idea who may have supplied Jeptoo with drugs if she did indeed use them.
Rosa also said he had taken a tough stance towards Mathew Kisorio when he tested positive and would involve lawyers if Kisorio tried to implicate him in any way for being involved.
World record holder Paula Radcliffe was adamant that more needs to be done in the fight against doping
Radcliffe is in New York to work with the ESPN broadcast but she took the time to speak to a group of reporters during media availability.
Radcliffe said that a positive test is good because it shows testing is working but said there’s still a lot of work to do to improve the system. Most importantly, Radcliffe feels that testing needs to be uniform throughout the globe, both in- and out-of-competition and that if she was in charge, she’d triple or quadruple the budget of the IAAF’s anti-doping efforts. She also said that she’d consider taking on a working position as part of anti-doping efforts in the sport.
One of Radcliffe’s hopes is that Sebastian Coe can be elected as IAAF president when Lamine Diack retires because she believes that he feels similarly about the issue as he does and will dedicate resources toward the issue of anti-doping.
While Radcliffe believes that rumors about dirty athletes should be investigated thoroughly, she doesn’t want it to turn into a witch hunt. As someone with some incredible times on her resume — including her 2:15:25 marathon world record — Radcliffe said that she doesn’t want people to immediate think about doping when someone runs an extremely fast time. Radcliffe’s comments about Jeptoo and anti-doping begin at 1:30.
Jemima Sumgong, Rita Jeptoo’s Sometimes Training Partner (Who Tested Positive Herself for Cortisone and Was Cleared) Expressed Surprise
Jemima Sumgong, who has the same agent and coach as Jeptoo, is running New York and was at the press event. She claimed she had not heard of the news of the positive test until a journalist asked her about it after the start of the press event. (For those of you who think that is not possible, James Li, Bernard Lagat’s coach, claimed he did not know Lagat’s “A” sample had tested positive in 2003, until LetsRun.com told him about it). She said she was “surprised” and “I’ve never seen it (doping) for sure.” She also noted this fall, “I didn’t train with her (Jeptoo) because I had many problems with injuries.”
It was only after speaking to Sumgong did we discover from Paula Radcliffe that Sumgong herself had a positive test in 2012. It was for a very different drug, cortisone, and was detected at the Boston Marathon. She was subsequently cleared by doping authorities because she was given the cortisone injection for a hip injury. Very different than taking EPO for sure.
Nonetheless, Sumgong, who speaks good English, presumably did not understand our question as when asked how big of a problem she thought drugs were in Kenya she said, “I’ve never heard. This was the first one to hear from my eyes, from my head.” We interpreted that to mean she had never heard of drugs in Kenya and then asked her if she had heard of Mathew Kisorio and she acknowledged she had. She then said, “yes people talk about it” but added “for me for sure, I know [I’m clean].”
We’ll try and follow up with her after the race about her own drug positive of which she was cleared.
2-time defending world champion Edna Kiplagat feels more prepared this year
Kiplagat has done a summer marathon in each of the past three years but with no global championships in 2014, she hasn’t done a marathon since London in April. She feels that this will benefit her in New York, as she feels totally recovered, as opposed to last year, when she was only ninth after winning the World Championships less than three months earlier. Despite the presence of 2:18 woman Mary Keitany, Kiplagat would like to see a fast race if the conditions are good.
On Jeptoo’s positive test, Kiplagat said “it was disappoining because she has been running good.”
Mary Keitany: “I think I learned a lesson.”
Three years ago, Keitany went out at near-world record pace in New York, running 67:56 for the first half of the race before fading to third in 2:23:38 (75:42 second half). Here’s what we wrote in our recap of that race:
Time and time again, reporters tried to get her to admit in the post-race press conference that she’d gone out too fast, but she was having none of it and said if she came back to New York she would not change her tactics: “I would run the same. I would not change.”
Well Keitany is back in New York this year and it appears that she has changed her mind. Keitany was clearly reluctant to talk about her race in 2011 and said that she still thinks about what could have been. This time around, she doesn’t have a specific plan to attack a fast time and will listen to how her body feels on race day.
“I think I will have to wait,” Keitany said, when asked what she learned from the last time she raced in New York. “I will not rush this time.”
Keitany didn’t have much to say about Jeptoo because she only learned the news 20 minutes before we spoke with her.
Jelena Prokopcuka is ready for another good finish in New York on Sunday
The 38-year-old Latvian two-time NYC champion surprised herself a bit last year by finishing third but said this year she’s stronger and more confident after 2013 NYC and her 2:24 marathon in Nagoya this year.