Renato Canova, One of the Top Distance Coaches in the World, Writes About Rita Jeptoo and Doping in Kenya

November 1, 2014

Italian Renato Canova, one of the most accomplished distance coaches in the world who often posts on the messageboard, has posted four in-depth posts about the positive “A” test for EPO that was announced yesterday for Rita Jeptoo of Kenya. Canova, who is based in Kenya, used to coach Jeptoo, the world’s #1 female marathoner.

The posts give tremendous insight into Jeptoo’s career, her positive test, the running culture in Kenya, and how dirty one of the top coaches in the world thinks the sport is. We have included the posts in their entirety below.

Before we get to them, it  should be pointed that in the past and in one of the posts shown below, Canova states that he doesn’t think doping would be beneficial to a top Kenyan distance runner.

A few highlights. In the thread: “Rita Jeptoo tests positive”, Canova reveals that he was Jeptoo’s coach from 1998 through her first Boston victory in 2006 and he talks about why she left him. Canova expresses his belief that Jeptoo’s current coach Claudio Berardelli was not behind the doping and that the “criminals” behind it where “are Kenyan, not European.”

On Berardelli, Canova wrote, “I know Claudio very well, and absolutely don’t think possible he is involved in any illegal action in training.”

Canova believes the doping problem “is a problem of specific culture and education, regarding the full Kenyan life, not athletics only.”

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He also goes on to say that he believes 95% of athletes are clean and that he knows “without any doubt” the world record performances of two of his athletes Saif Shaheen (steeplechase) and Moses Mosop (30k) “depended on their talent and their training ONLY”  because they occurred during the period from 2003 to 2011 when he lived close by them in Kenya.

Below are the four posts by Canova (Editor’s note: English isn’t Canova’s first language but we’ve left everything as he wrote it).

Renato Canova Coaching in Kenya More here Renato Canova Coaching in Kenya More here

Post #1: Canova talks about history coaching Rita, why she left his group, the culture of Kenya, and how the government needs to act quickly:

“I’m shocked by this bad news. I was Rita’s coach from her beginning, when she was in Italy (1998), 17 only, starting with short distances. She came Italy together with Jonah Koech, the first Kenyan I coached, now living in Iowa, and was a very Young and gracious girl.

When I put her in the first HM, everybody was skeptic about her possibility of success, since her way of running was not the best for long distances, and she was maybe 5-6 kg more heavy than today. She ran 1:12:32, and this showed mental and organical attitudes for long distances.

In 2004, we planned to run her first Marathon at the end of winter season. She went Stockholm at the beginning of June, and won with 2:35:14 with very little training.

Starting the real preparation for Marathon at the end of July, after her first experience, she won Milan in 2:28:11, becoming, also mentally, Marathon runner full time.

We worked together till the end of 2006. She went, through different experiences, till the victory in Boston in 2006 with 2:23:38, when showed her unbelievable mental resistance running the last 12.2 km with the best fourth time, men included (nobody of the first 10 men ran faster than her after 30 km).

She was used to stay in Italy in my house, and the person I know is a nice girl, with good moral principles and big respect for other people (never she spoke in bad way of somebody else), principles given by her parents in her small village near Moi Bridge.

After winning Boston (she prepared in Iten in a camp I created using my personal money, without the intervention of any managements, for helping new athletes and putting together athletes already with me in training before, but living in different villages), her husband decided they were ready for training at home in Mosoriot, and we started to have problems to understand exactly the training situation. For that reason, Rita (with me till 2008, but only more following programs) was no more able to improve (something happening with many kenyan women, when their husband decide to be their coach, with the presumption to know what they don’t know).

She had a baby in 2009, but was able to come back in 2011 running in 2:25 at the end of the season in Frankfurt.

After that time, she had several personal problems, and found the solution of many of them thank to Claudio Berardelli and Federico Rosa.

I know Claudio very well, and absolutely don’t think possible he is involved in any illegal action in training.

However, also if my position that doping at top level, with the best African runners, doesn’t give any advantage, compared with the best possible training, doesn’t change, I have to admit that the situation in Kenya during the last 5-6 years changed.

Really, I don’t think foreigner coaches or managers are involved. A management has several athletes, and has only to lose when one represented athlete is positive for some drug.

But the fact now in Kenya there are many more road races with good prizes without any antidoping control provoked the proliferation of strange personages not coming from the athletic world (maybe doctors, or pharmacists, or simply cheaters looking at runners because around them there is a real racket of criminals of coasting trade), and these personages can have easy road for cheating athletes without good level of education, for that reason having naive mind and believing in everything some person with more education (the case of doctors or pharmacists) explain them.

This is not a problem of antidoping out or in competition, and is not a technical problem. This is a problem of specific culture and education, regarding the full Kenyan life, not athletics only.

Who has to face this problem is not AK. It’s Kenyan Government, making soon a law against people selling not allowed pharmacs and cheating athletes for having advantages.

In the normal kenyan life, these are the same people selling pharmacs already expired, selling not pure and Dangerous water in fake bottles with fake labels, selling every type of damageous support for the normal life of normal people, and cheating ingenuous persons for earning money in illegal way.

Western Countries need to understand that poor African people have an important “motor” for living, that is their “hope in a better future”. They are psychologically very weak about this issue, believing in everything somebody can tell them, able to give more hope.

I’m not surprise if many kenyan runners, of medium and low level, and without education, can be positive for some doping, and of course I don’t consider this as “rampant” in Kenya, where we have may be 5000 runners.

But the fact a top athlete as Rita can be in the list makes me think there is something that Kenya Govn. has to face immediately.

I’m sure NOBODY of these athletes NEVER asked for something illegal, for increasing their shape, or their ability to compete. I know too well the mentality of the best athletes, such as I know the mentality of some “weak” athlete, and Always, when I heard somebody asking for some help (not illegal…) “such as in Europe or US”, the request came from weak athletes. NEVER I heard one of kenyan top athletes asking for some supplement, while this is one of the first requests from European and American athletes.

But the fact Rita is involved means that the action of criminals around runners is growing, and the effect becomes worse and worse.

In this bad picture, that creates bad image on all kenyan runners, I think the efforts of Kenyan Government against DOPERS must be one of the priorities, more than the efforts of AK against DOPED.

One further consideration : the Majors gave a budget for allowing out of competition tests in Kenya and Ethiopia, and all the best athletes are now tested, thank to the money big Marathons used for this problem. So, people can finish to think that kenyan and ethiopian athletes are protected : if Rita, winner of the last 4 Majors and of the Jackpot, and at the moment best image for Women in the Marathon World, is busted for doping, ALL the bests (from Kimetto to Wilson Kipsang, from Geoffrey Mutai to Emmanuel Mutai, from Edna Kiplagat to Mary Keitany, from Kenenisa Bekele to Tsegaye Kebede, from Tiki Gelana to Tirunesh Dibaba, etc…) are in this plan and are controlled with continuity. This means that people can finish to think that controls don’t work, when it’s possible to catch the number ones in the World in almost all the disciplines in athletics, from sprint to throws to jumps (and, of course, to middle and long distances).”

Post #2. Canova surmises that the “criminals” are Kenyan not European and that Jeptoo would have little incentive to cheat to win the WMM before Chicago:

“I think your irony is out of place, in this case.When I spoke of Michele Ferrari, I said he is a nice person for everybody can have the opportunbity to speak with him.
He is a man of very good culture, high level of scientific education, many cultural interests out of sport, and if you meet some person like him you can talk about several arguments for hours, without becoming bored.This is, in this case, the explanation of what “nice” means for me. Maybe that in English you can use some other word…

But, when we look at his moral attitude, I completely deplore his behavior, and am very far from his ideas.

The case of Rita is different. I was coach of Rita for long time, in Italy and Kenya, and in Italy she was in my house, so I had the opportunity to appreciate her behavior, to understand her values and to know her thoughts and her psychology. For that reason I’m really surprised, and sincerely (also if are about 4 years I don’t have contacts with her) I don’t think a person can change so much.

That’s the reason because I think she is a VICTIM of some ignorance, and of somebody ABUSING of her ignorance for personal advantage.

Looking at the jackpot, Rita was the only one with 3 victories (75 points), and for her was enough to finish Chicago in 5th position for having mathematically 500,000 USD. Which interest could she have in taking consciously some doping, with the risk to be caught (exactly what happened) ?

And the same calculation comes from her management. For her management, the amount of final jackpot (500,000 USD) plus the appearance (I don’t know how much, but not less than 150,000 USD) without any good prize in the race, could produce more than 100,000 USD of percentage. Which reason they can have for risking image and money giving some illegal PED ?

These are all questions without some answer, till now.

What I really hope is that Rita can speak clearly about ALL THE SITUATION, finally involving the criminals (who are Kenyan, not European) that are allowed to destroy reputation and motivation of the best kenyan athletes, abusing of the ignorance of athletes and the superficiality of statal organization.”

Post #3. Canova says from 2003 to 2011 he lived with many of his athletes in Kenya for a long time and that “without any doubt” the world steeplechase record of Saif Shaheen, the 30k world record by Moses Mosop and a half marathon by Florence Kiplagat (we’re not entirely sure which mark he is talking about. Kiplagat said a WR in the half in 2014, in 2011 she won the world half marathon) “depended on their talent and their training ONLY”: 

“Maybe I have no idea of what is going on, but I don’t want to put performances down my coaching. I am Always very honest when I speak about athletes and coaches. Many times somebody joined some athletes to my coaching, and I explained I was not their coach. I don’t need to boast about my coaching in the World, who is in athletics knows me from long time, because now I’m almost seventy (unfortunately…), and Always my passion was to spread advanced methodology in different parts of the World (I do this for IAAF, too).

But I have not the idea, but the real KNOWLEDGE of what happened with my athletes, especially from 2003 till 2011, when I lived with them for long time, may be in the same room, and had the opportunity to know, deeply, their minds and their behaviors.

And I can say, without any doubt, that some result (like the WR of Shaheen in steeple, or of Moses Mosop for 30 km, or of Florence Kiplagat for HM) depended on their talent and their training ONLY.

I like to put online the REAL training of my best athletes because this can be a help for Young coaches, who can achieve a different vision of training.

This is for me a pleasure, and for some Young coach a service, nothing else.

What pushes me to continue this type of life (in one year I have about 100 flights everywhere, and I continue to move from China to Kenya to Ethiopia to Europe) is the PASSION for athletics, that gave the imprint to all my life.

It’s because I know where it’s possible to arrive without any aid that I don’t believe in the effects of doping. And, in spite of some “excellent doped”, I don’t change my idea.”

Post #4. Canova says he thinks 95% of athletes are clean and that the World Marathon Majors should help pay to put a drug lab in Kenya that can do blood testing:

“The Majors gave a budget for carrying out antidoping tests in Kenya and Ethiopia.

London Marathon helped, with a big amount of money, Lornah Kiplagat to build the tartan track in Eldoret.

The image of all the Majors is strictly connected with the credibility of the best runners, winning big prizes, running great times and exciting all people following the big marathons.

The Majors have big budgets, due to the great number of participants who has to pay very expensive fees for entering the race.

I launch one proposal : Why all the Major together (may be in different percentage) don’t give WADA some money, for building a lab of analysis in Eldoret, officially authorized (of course, after checking how can work) for testing the most diffused drugs, particularly interesting blood doping ?

The main problem because there are not blood test in Kenya or Ethiopia is the lack of one lab authorized to carry out tests using the advanced system of the official labs.

I think that the main problem for bulding a lab is the lack of money, and the world can’t ask Countries with real problems for the most part of people to use money for something interesting a very little part of the Nation, only. But this is a problem involving all the athletic world, looking at the weight of Kenya and Ethiopia in all the events of middle and long distances.

I don’t know exactly how much an advanced lab can cost, but in Eldoret (or Iten) for sure with 200,000 USD it’s possible to build a very good building to use as lab, and I don’t think can be a big problem to find sponsors for the equipment they need in order to have frequent tests with high percentage of correct results.

Since all these situation (Kenya / Ethiopia for long distances, Jamaica for sprint) create big shadows on all the athletic world, I think that IAAF too must have, as priority, the goal to build something, in these two Countries, valid for testing the best athletes in the World, in order to dispel every doubt about the Champions coming from these two Countries.

The worst thing, in this panorama, is the climate of suspicion around everybody involved with top athletes (athletes themselves, coaches and managers).

Who is clean (I continue to say that the percentage is 95%) can’t accept to be looked as cheater, only because he/she has the motivation and the application for achieving results connected with a talent better than the most part of other competitor. To have big talent is not something wrong, instead is a gift that athletes must use in the best way. In athletics, somebody has to become the winner and the record holder, and it’s not correct to think that ALL winners and ALL record holders use some trick for being at the top.

I’m sure the most part of top runners are clean, and, for Kenya and Ethiopia, not to push for the solution of a domestic authorized lab is like an athletic suicide.”

You can read the entire thread Rita Jeptoo tests positive here. Canova’s comments start here on page 8.

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