Zane Robertson, Kiwi Marathon and Half Marathon Record Holder, Popped for EPO
By Robert Johnson
March 21, 2023
Zane Robertson, the New Zealand record holder in the half marathon (59:47) and marathon (2:08:19) and former record holder in the 10,000 (27:33.67), has been suspended by The Sport Tribunal of New Zealand from competition for 8 years after testing positive for Erythropoietin (EPO) and “providing false documentation in his defence.”
Robertson, who along with his twin brother Jake famously moved to Kenya in 2007 at the age of 17 to try to become one of the world’s best distance runners, had retired in February at the age of 33 but didn’t mention anything about a pending drug bust. Zane tested positive at the UK’s Great Manchester Run in May 2022.
After his B sample came back positive, Zane Robertson didn’t try to argue that EPO wasn’t in his system. Instead, he said he went to a Kenyan medical facility to get a COVID vaccination but instead was given EPO, and he provided documentation to back up his point, but investigators determined the documentation provided was false.
In addition to it making no sense medically why someone would be given EPO when they came in for a vaccine, a Vice President of the “medical facility Mr Robertson claimed to have attended” provided a statement saying “Mr Robertson was not administered EPO at the facility, that he had not attended the facility on the alleged date, that of the two doctors he claimed had treated him, one was a laboratory technician and the other was not employed at the facility, that the medical notes were not generated at the facility and the patient number on the notes was not Mr Robertson’s.”
The Sports Tribunal of New Zealand’s full decision can be read here (also embedded at the bottom of this document).
Additionally, Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) issued its own press release that can be read here (also embedded at the bottom of this document), but in reading it, appears that Robertson may have been targeted for testing.
“This case benefitted hugely from the sharing of key information and the invaluable support of the Athletics Integrity Unit and Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya. Our global partnerships allow us to collaborate across the anti-doping landscape to detect and deter doping and hold dopers to account, wherever they may be,” said Drug Free Sport New Zealand Chief Executive Nick Paterson.
The press release was unusual in that it contained a lengthy statement from Athletics NZ Chief Pete Pfitzinger, the two-time US Olympic marathoner (and Cornell grad), about how the organization was trying to make sure that Robertson’s mental health was being taken care of.
“As an organisation we take athlete welfare very seriously, so we understand the anxiety and stress that Zane will be experiencing. As soon as he received notification of the positive test for EPO last year, we offered and have provided extensive wellbeing support alongside High Performance Sport New Zealand and we will continue to provide support during this challenging time. We appreciate DFSNZ’s consideration of the athlete’s wellbeing throughout this process,” said Pfitzinger.
It’s worth noting that prior to the 2016 Olympics where Zane Robertson was 12th in the 10,000, Zane, who had relocated to Ethiopia, expressed his frustration as to the amount of doping in the sport and specifically the situation that was going on in Kenya.
“It’s disturbing that I can see these things unfolding before my eyes yet those athletes continue to race on,” said Zane to stuff.co.nz. Robertson also competed in the 2020 Olympics in the marathon where he was 36th.
The LetsRun.com crew talked at length about Zane’s positive on the LetsRun.com Track Talk podcast. Full podcast here.
Talk about Zane Robertson on our messageboard.
- MB: ZANE ROBERTSON POPPED FOR EPO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now we know why he ‘retired’ in February
- MB: Zane Robertson retires – was it worth it?
Non-LRC articles: 2020: Bullied in New Zealand, LA Marathon hopeful Zane Robertson found a home in East Africa
2016: Kiwi Olympic runner Zane Robertson urges fellow athletes to ‘come out of the shadows’ on doping
2012: New Zealand twins racing out of Africa
Full Decision The Sports Tribunal of New Zealand
Full DFSNZ Press Release