May 2, 2018
It has been reported by multiple outlets, first by Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail, that the greatest 1500m runner of the last decade, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2011, 2013, and 2015 world champion, Asbel Kiprop, has tested positive for a banned substance believed to be EPO.
Neither Athletics Kenya nor any anti-doping unit has confirmed the positive test but Reuters is reporting that Kiprop wrote in the Kenyan Athletics WhatsApp group, “I have read the reports linking me to doping. As an athlete, I have been at the forefront of the fight against doping in Kenya. A fight I strongly believe in and support. I would not want to ruin all what I have worked for since my first international race in 2007. I hope I can prove that I am a clean athlete in every way possible.”
At this stage we must state the caveat that Kiprop hasn’t been banned for anything and all athletes are presumed innocent by anti-doping authorities until convicted by both their “A” and “B” sample positive and a hearing. Occasionally, the “B” sample does not confirm the “A” sample result (Bernard Lagat for EPO), or the anti-doping authorities accept the reason the prohibited substance was found in the athlete (Ajee Wilson’s tainted beef leading to a zeranol positive).
Having said that, in the vast majority of the cases, once news like this comes out the athlete is convicted of a doping offense. Jemima Sumgong, the 2016 Olympic marathon champ and last Kenyan star to test positive, blamed it on treatment for an ectopic pregnancy but was ultimately banned for four years as the hospital where she claimed to be treated denied doing so.
Our five takeaways:
1) It’s a dark day for the sport
Even if Kiprop is ultimately cleared, today is a dark day for the sport. The best 1500m runner on the planet over the last decade appears to have been a drug cheat. The performances that inspired so many of us were likely fraudulent, and even if they weren’t, we will question them even more than we previously did. In the 2014 “Clean or Dirty” LetsRun.com polls, 26.8% of you thought Kiprop was dirty. That was in the middle of the athletes we asked about, but the 1500 has a pretty bad historical reputation so we certainly shouldn’t be shocked.
Take a look at the list of the 1500 world champions here and tell us how many of those you think are clean. In the 2014 “Clean or Dirty” LetsRun.com polls, 56.83% thought world record holder and 4-time world champ Hicham El Guerrouj was dirty, former world record holder Said Aouita has been accused of trying to pressure an Australian athlete to dope and 2005 world champ Rashid Ramzi was already busted.
Long-term when a star tests positive, we believe it is a positive for the sport because it shows the anti-doping authorities are not covering up tests and creating a more stringent anti-doping system. But today, it is ok to be sad.
2) Yet another positive test from an athlete managed by Rosa & Associati
Exactly one year ago, we published an interview with agents Gabriele and Federico Rosa where they answered our questions following the news that Jemima Sumgong had tested positive for EPO. In that interview, they denied any involvement in Sumgong’s decision to dope, told us that their athletes “need to be clean” and that they “have always fought the doping.”
It was very similar to their position when we spoke to Gabriele Rosa at the 2016 New York City Marathon following Rita Jeptoo’s positive test. Just as in 2017, Gabriele Rosa denied any involvement in Jeptoo’s decision to dope, telling us, “we are clean.” He also offered the following advice:
“My suggestion is: if you follow the athletes, you must understand what they do [even when they aren’t with you]. You know what I mean. It is important [to know what they are doing].”
Yet Kiprop is now the fifth notable Rosa client to test positive since 2012, a list that also includes Jeptoo, Sumgong, Mathew Kisorio, and Agatha Jeruto. And that doesn’t include athletes like Sarah Chepchirchir, who came out of nowhere last year at age 32 to suspiciously run a huge marathon PR of 2:19 in Tokyo. The Rosas claimed that they had suspended Chepchirchir last year. She won the Lisbon Marathon in October and has not raced since.
We asked Kiprop about the Rosas last year at the Prefontaine Classic, and he defended them while also telling us he did not tolerate doping.
“I have also suffered a loss in the Olympic Games during 2008 so I don’t tolerate doping. So when I stand by Rosas, I know they [are] clean as a company.”
Our thoughts on the Rosas are the same as they were when Sumgong tested positive (see point #4 here): the fact that so many of their athletes have tested positive shows that they are either incompetent, indifferent toward doping, or actively involved with getting their athletes to dope. Whichever one it is, none of those three things are good.
For more on possible ties to the Rosas and doping, see this article from Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung – one of the country’s larges papers – from last July. It says that marathoner Matthew Sigei said on German TV that the Rosas used to regularly dope athletes including himself (MB discussion here).
More: My Trip to a Possible Doping Camp in Kenya: What I Saw When I Spent a Day with Olympic Champion Jemima Sumgong
*We Are Clean” – Dr. Gabriele Rosa Talks About Turning Stanley Biwott and Jemima Sumgong Into Marathon Stars And Doping In Kenya
*Agents Federico and Gabriele Rosa Answer Our Questions About Doping in Kenya After Jemima Sumgong’s “A” Positive Test
3) Here’s who finished behind Kiprop in his four global gold-medal-winning races
1. Asbel Kiprop, Kenya 3:33.11
2. Nick Willis, New Zealand 3:34.16
3. Mehdi Baala, France 3:34.21
4. Juan Carlos Higuero, Spain 3:34.44
*Kiprop was actually the second man across the line on the night as Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug CERA and was stripped of his gold in 2009
1. Asbel Kiprop, Kenya 3:35.69
2. Silas Kiplagat, Kenya 3:35.92
3. Matthew Centrowitz, USA 3:36.08
4. Manuel Olmedo, Spain 3:36.33
1. Asbel Kiprop, Kenya 3:36.28
2. Matthew Centrowitz, USA 3:36.78
3. Johan Cronje, South Africa 3:36.83
4. Nixon Chepseba, Kenya 3:36.87
1. Asbel Kiprop, Kenya 3:34.40
2. Elijah Manangoi, Kenya 3:34.63
3. Abdelaati Iguider, Morocco 3:34.67
4. Taoufik Makhloufi, Algeria 3:34.76
Considering Kiprop’s reported positive stems from a failed out-of-competition test in late 2017, it’s very unlikely that any of those medals will be stripped. But if the positive test holds up and Kiprop is ultimately banned, many will view Nick Willis as the true 2008 Olympic champion — even though he was the third athlete to cross the line.
4) Is Matthew Centrowitz now the greatest 1500-meter runner of his generation?
Take out Kiprop from the results, and Centrowitz’ resume would include the 2016 Olympic title, 2013 world title, 2011 world silver and 2016 World Indoor title.
Taoufik Makhloufi’s championship record is almost as impressive (2012 Olympic gold, 2016 Olympic silver, and 2015 World bronze if you remove Kiprop) and his PR is much faster than Centro’s (3:28.75 to 3:30.40). Silas Kiplagat was faster than both of them (3:27.64) and way better on the circuit — Kiplagat has 11 Diamond League 1500/mile wins compared to one for Makhloufi and none for Centrowitz — but only owns one global medal (2011 world gold if you remove Kiprop).
If you value championship success above all else — and we do — there’s a strong case to be made for Centrowitz as the best 1500 runner of his generation.
5) The main reaction among the pros? Frustration
Here’s a sampling of some elite runners’ responses to the Kiprop news:
— Aisha Praught Leer (@aishapraught) May 2, 2018
This makes me incredibly mad. I really don't want to throw all kenyans in the same boat, but I've heard some really worrying things about their doping management (or lack of). There is a need for stronger investigations https://t.co/3iacjMAnPb
— Charles P.-T. (@Chuck_PT) May 2, 2018
You all surprised by Asbel Kiprop? Nope. There’s virtually no testing in Kenya. It’s a total farce, he’s one of the “greatest ever” and he’s juiced up on EPO.. go get all the others now please.
— Guy Learmonth (@GuyLearmonth) May 2, 2018
Kiprop. When are we going to start charging drug cheats with the crime it actually is, FRAUD! Thousands of £ STOLEN from athletes and meet promoters. Absolute joke. No doubt nothing will change and we’ll have the same convo again about another athlete in a few months. #Kiprop
— Ross Murray (@RosscoJammin) May 2, 2018
So… When can we apply blanket bans on athletes who are coached/managed/train with certain people? This is out of hand. Hey athletes: if you are clean, don't surround yourself with suspicious people. You are the company you keep #cleanupthissportalready
— Ben True (@bentrue) May 2, 2018
Talk about the Kiprop alleged positive on our world famous fan forum / messageboard:
- Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprop has tested positive
- Nick Willis dancing around the breakfast table fist pumping celebrating his 2008 Olympic Gold medal
- Doping experts, why would a distance athlete like Kiprop be on EPO at the end of the year?
- Kiprop the biggest bust since???