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. (more…)
Taxation can impoverish as well as replenish, overturn empires or elevate kings. It is getting the balance right that counts. Last Wednesday 400+ members of Kenya’s running nobility gathered in Eldoret, the center of Kenyan running in the North Rift Valley, to unite in opposition to an imposition, an imposition of a direct tax on their athletic earnings.
In one voice the athletes said, nay! we already pay indirect tax via the local levies on holdings, businesses, and the like. (Athletes are the Republicans in this scenario, the trickle down, job-creators.) On the other side sits the Kenyan Revenue Authority (KRA) which says the law is simple, all Kenya citizens must pay (30%) tax on all earnings.
But as always in Kenya, there is the law and then there is the policy. For years Kenyan athletes have been seen as ambassadors for their country, elevating its world standing by their superb racing exploits. What’s more, their income was considered an engine of commerce as they poured their earnings back into their local economies. And since those businesses and investments were always subjected to taxation, the athletes say the imposition of a direct tax on earnings would not only stifle future economic development, it would double tax them as their earnings are already taxed in the countries in which they race.
But there’s more to it than that. Just 50 years free from British colonial rule, Kenya remains a young nation, and the ties that bind a nation together are not as developed as one might assume. What further underlies the athletes’ opposition to the new policy is the duplicity they see as coming from the government.
Kenyan Parliamentarians are among the highest paid in the world in a nation whose citizens earn an average $1800 per year. Last summer the MPs succumbed to public pressure and agreed to drop their salaries by nearly 40%, but from $120,000 a year to $75,000! Then they voted themselves exempt from paying any tax! That’s good work if you can get it.
The argument from the KRA vantage point says that the policy of not directly taxing the athletes’ income was initiated decades ago when there was just a trickle of men running overseas. Today, that trickle has become a torrent, and the time for such a lenient tax policy has long since passed, and the athletes must now be treated like any other citizen. Thus, what we see is one side looking to overturn tradition, while the other wants to maintain its legacy. (more…)
Davenport, Iowa – The 39thQuad City Times Bix 7Road Race goes off tomorrow, one of the summer’s top races on the U.S. road tour. Preparing for KWQC-TVslive broadcast (coverage begins at 7 a.m. central time, the race starts at 8 a.m.), I called agent Brendan Reilly (Boulder Wave, Inc.) for an update on his athlete Diane Nukuri-Johnson, winner of the Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco and one of the favorites in the Bix7 women’s race. Soon, however, our talk turned to this week’s news that Athletics Kenya has once again taken a hard line with its athletes in preparation for the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Moscow where Reilly’s client Edna Kiplagat of Kenya will be defending her 2011 world title in the women’s marathon.
This decision comes in the wake of Kenya’s poor showing at last year’s London Olympic Games — they aimed for 12 gold medals, but returned home with only two – David Rudisha in the 800m, and Ezikiel Kemboi in the 3000m steeplechase. AK came away feeling their athletes had over-raced ahead of time. Immediately following the Games the federation decreed that any Kenyan marathoner eligible for a position on the 2016 Rio Olympic Marathon squad will not be allowed to participate in a spring marathon before the Rio Games. These decisions have not been well received within the agent fraternity, and Brendan Reilly, for one, feels his profession is getting something of a bum rap. (more…)
Seattle, WA. — With Athletics Kenyareleasing news Thursday that three Kenyan marathoners face doping bans for failing drug tests, and former three-time steeplechase world champion Moses Kiptanui adding his voice to those expressing the opinion that there is more PED drug use going on in Kenya than previously believed, it was timely to find the World Marathon Majorsrelease a new drug policy this week. The World Marathon Majors is made up of the New York City, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons.
While not aimed at any particular nation or region, the new policy is an acknowledgment that the same temptations are in play in Africa as anywhere else. And having been to both Kenya and Ethiopia several times, and as recently as last year, I can tell you that the argument against the likelihood of drug use in East Africa has always been more about cost, availability and regimentation than the desire to partake. Plus, the number of talented athletes is so huge, and some regions so remote as to negate the practicality of widespread drug use.
However, all one need do is recall that when I first visited Africa in 1998 there were no cell phones, internet cafes or wireless technology whatsoever. In other words, things have changed; modernity rolls in quite quickly. And with more and more opportunities to perform around the world, the temptation to lift oneself out of poverty, by whatever means necessary, grows right along with them. Therefore, the need to increase testing should mirror that same pattern of growth.
But testing is expensive, not just in the form of the tests themselves, but in the human cost of placing testers in areas where athletes live and train. That’s why I found it interesting to note that a major World Marathon Majors initiative should be released under a London Marathon letterhead rather than a World Marathon Majors’ one. It points to the continued muddled nature of this sport from an organizational standpoint. (more…)
In the whirl of travel and press duties for last weekend’s Chicago Marathon, the following notice slipped into my mail bag with little notice. In the wake of Kenya’s disappointing performances at the London Olympic Marathons, Athletics Kenya (AK) has announced a new policy for Rio 2016 which it hopes will give the nation its best chance to secure what has been an elusive goal, the men’s and women’s Olympic Marathon gold medal.
After a contentious and controversial selection process in 2012, the highly touted Kenyan men’s Olympic Marathon team took home the Olympic silver and bronze medals in London via Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang, but lost in defense of Sammy Wanjiru‘s 2008 gold to Uganda’s surprising Stephen Kiprotich. In the women’s marathon, Priscah Jeptoo won the silver medal, while pre-race favorites Mary Keitany and reigning World Champion Edna Kiplagat could only manage fourth and 20th places.
In the aftermath of those letdowns, AK has announced that in order to represent the crossed spears over shield flag in Rio de Janeiro 2016, all provisionally selected marathoners will not be allowed to compete in another marathon six months in advance of the Games. This new policy would eliminate the 2016 spring calendar of marathons including Boston, Rotterdam and London, all which played a major role in the 2012 selection process. (more…)
Well, the word has come down from on high, and a little earlier than expected at that. Originally scheduled to be announced April 30th, today at a packed news conference in Naiobi, Athletics Kenya named their highly anticipated Olympic Marathon squads.
Men: Wilson Kipsang, Abel Kirui, Moses Mosop…
Women: Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo…
“We have selected the athletes based on their individual performances after the major Marathon races they have participated in this season with a lot of emphasis on experience,” AK President Isaiah Kiplagat told the gathering.
The women’s selection held no surprises, top three at London, all of whom have performed well in recent performances before that, including reigning World Champion Edna Kiplagat and silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo. Two-time London champion Mary Keitany is, of course, the lioness herself.
The only other candidate with claim might have been Boston champ Sharon Cherop, the bronze medal winner in Daegu. But even her own team knew her Olympic chance came and went in Dubai in January where, though she ran a PR 2:22:39, it only harvested seventh place. Regardless of her win in Boston, AK was not going to put someone on the team whose third marathon of the year would be the Olympic Marathon.
Men’s team was always the more intriguing selection. But of the six provisional picks, only Wilson Kipsang performed at his best this spring, winning London handily.
M. Mosop 2:05:02 – 3rd, Rotterdam
G. Mutai DNF, Boston
W.Kipsang 2:04:44 – 1st, London
A. Kirui 2:07:56 – 6th, London
E. Mutai 2:08:01 – 7th, London
P. Makau DNF, London (more…)
The turnover at the top-end of Kenyan marathon running is as remarkable as it is swift. With so many lean and hungry athletes preparing and dreaming back home, the kings of one year are quickly deposed by the predatory scions of speed coming up from behind the next.
This year’s Kenyan Olympic selection season – comprised of the Rotterdam, Boston, and London Marathons – is testimony to that reality, and another cause for head-scratching, both for the Kenyan Olympic selectors, and for the sport as it tries, in vain, to build personalities to market to its shrinking fan base.
Today, two-time Frankfurt Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang sealed his Olympic selection with a dominate win in London, 2:04:44, just four-seconds off last year’s course record, but clear of second place by a gaping two minutes and seven seconds, the largest margin of victory in London in 30 years.
The three other provisional Kenyan Olympians battling in London, two-time World Champion Abel Kirui, defending London champion Emmanuel Mutai, and world record holder Patrick Makau all came up well short of their expectations and hopes as non-provisional Kenyan Martin Lel took second over 2010 champion Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia in a kick 2:06:51 to 2:06:52.
We witnessed similar disappointments in Rotterdam and Boston. First, Moses Mosop, last year’s Chicago Marathon record setter and Boston runner-up, could do no better than third in Rotterdam (2:05:02) behind two relatively unheralded Ethiopians, Yemane Adhane (2:04:47) and Getu Fekele (2:04:50). Then 2011 Boston and New York City master of disaster Geoffrey Mutai wilted in the heat of Boston, dropping out after 20 miles. Though, how much the heat and missing a drink at 25k in Boston caused his demise is something the Athletics Kenya Olympic selectors will have to determine now that all but one of their six provisional Olympians failed to deliver when the chips were down and the stakes were high.
“(Geoffrey) Mutai is more complicated,” said Kenyan-based Italian coach Gabriele Nicola after watching Boston last week. “You don’t cancel last year. If Wilson Kipsang, Abel Kirui, Makau, or Emmanuel Mutai runs 2:04:15, then select them. If not…”
But only Kipsang managed a sub-2:05 in London. Two-time IAAF World Champion Abel Kirui ran bravely, challenging Kipsang’s mid-race charge, but faded to sixth (2:07:56). Defending London champion Emmanuel Mutai arrived right behind in seventh (2:08:01), and world record holder Patrick Makau dropped out before 20km.
As of today, Kipsang leads the Kenyan troops on the world marathon list, though still behind Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero’s 2:04:23 from January’s Dubai Marathon. Following Kipsang are Jonathon Maiyo (2:04:56 – 4th, Dubai), Mosop ( 2:05:02 – 3rd, Rotterdam), Stanley Biwott (2:05:12 – 1st, Paris), and Wilson Ekupe (2:05:37 – 1st, Seoul). Ekupe is the perfect example of the sudden change at the top of Kenyan standings one year to the next. Seoul this March was his first foreign race ever!
Geoffrey Mutai’s Dutch manager Gerard van de Veen told me that Wilson Kipsang called Geoffrey a month ago, and suggested they train together through their final cycles leading to Boston and London.
“So Kipsang came for two or three weeks to do long runs and speed work with Mutai. For both the goal is the Olympics.”
Here were the first and third fastest men in history willing to expose themselves to a rival in order to better their chances to make the Olympic team. Certainly worked for Kipsang, and who knows for Mutai? The whole Kenyan selection now is all up in the air. Kind of suggests a single Trials method next time, wouldn’t you say?