As Defalate-Gate continues to be the lead story leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX in America, Inflate-gate (as in performance) continues to make headlines in Kenya.
With the case against discredited Kenyan marathon star Rita Jeptoo still awaiting final disposition, the IAAF handed down sanctions Tuesday January 27th against eight Kenyan athletes for doping violations (mostly marathon runners). It was also reported by The Daily Nation that Ms. Jeptoo’s Italian manager Federico Rosa of Rosa & Associates has followed through with his intention of introducing blood testing for all the athletes in his Kenyan stable.
The technology used for such testing arrived in Kenya on Monday and was being cleared at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s customs department, according to The Daily Nation.
Two weeks ago Ms. Jeptoo gave testimony before an Athletics Kenya doping commission, and faces either a two or four-year ban after having produced a positive result for the banned blood-booster EPO in an out-of-competition test preceding last fall’s Chicago Marathon, a race she won for the second year in a row. Jeptoo’s coach Claudio Berardelli and Mr. Rosa also gave testimony before the commission, as did her estranged husband Noah Busienie, who coached Jeptoo before Mr. Berardelli.
With three Boston and two Chicago Marathon titles Jeptoo is the biggest name caught up in the growing performance-enhancing drug scandal coming out of Kenya in recent years, a scandal that threatens to undermine belief in the entire scope of excellence that the world has come to expect from the East African distance running juggernaut.
According to Mr. Rosa, the new blood testing equipment will be used as a hedge against any rogue doping by individual athletes, as well as a bulwark against any suspicion that he or his team may have any involvement in doping. Besides Ms. Jeptoo, two other Rosa athletes have tested positive in recent years, Matthew Kisorio and Jeptoo’s training mate Jemimah Sumgong. However, Ms. Sumgong’s 2012 drug positive, discovered after her second place finish at the 2012 Boston Marathon, was later overturned by Athletics Kenya following an appeal by Mr. Rosa.
That appeal supported Rosa’s claim that Ms. Sumgong “received a local (intrabursal) injection of prednisolone for a medical condition duly diagnosed (hip injury),” according to a memo from the IAAF Anti-Doping Administrator to Athletics Kenya. “According to the 2012 WADA Prohibited List, glucocorticosteriods (including prednisolone) are not prohibited when administered locally.”
Mr. Rosa is a non-practicing physician by training, and the son of Rosa & Associates founder, 73 year-old Dr. Gabriele Rosa whose clients have included some of the greatest athletes in Kenyan running history: Moses Tanui, Paul Tergat, Robert Cheruiyot, Margaret Okayo, and Martin Lel, all multiple time major champions, none of whom had ever tested positive or been rumored to have used PEDs.
This past December at the Honolulu Marathon Federico Rosa approached me, adamantly denying involvement in the drug positives and informing me of his intention to introduce the new level of testing in his training camps.
“There are doctors around Kenya who do such things (doping),” he said. “But rather than making a story, we try to clean up the sport. All our athletes had a big press conference in Eldoret after New York, old athletes and new. And never has there been any doping in our camp. At the end of the day we are 100% clean.”
Since Federico’s father, Dr. Gabriele Rosa, arrived on the running scene from the world of cycling in the mid-1980s, I suggested that in any such case one might expect rumor and innuendo given the connection between Italian physicians, doping in cycling and Lance Armstrong.
“The perception of people is the most difficult thing to overcome,” he agreed. “When someone says something, it is hard to take back. We joined cycling for only one year (1985), and then we ran away from it because my father thought it was too dangerous. (Being tarred by that association) Is like saying, ‘you are German. You killed all the Jews.’
“Many people are jealous because of our success. How many athletes do we have running 2:03? Zero. Our fastest man, Dickson Chumba is 2:04:32 (3rd, 2014 Chicago). I don’t need to justify myself, but I have bought a machine and will do testing protocols every month on all my athletes to prove they are not cheating. We need to protect the names of our athletes and our company.”
It is easy to be cynical. Corruption and suspicion are deeply embedded in the world of sport. Just ask Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.