Kenyan runner provided fake medical records in failed attempt to avoid drugs ban for EPO
Jemima Sumgong, winner of the Olympic women’s marathon in Rio, has seen her doping ban increased to eight years amid claims she lied about her medical records and whereabouts.
The 34-year-old claims she suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy in February 2017 – which led to treatment in Nairobi – and that she was injected with the blood-boosting drug EPO by an “imposter” in the hospital during a doctor’s strike.
She tested positive after an out-of-competition test on February 28, 2017, but her story was dismissed by the disciplinary group, while the Athletics Integrity Unit says “she provided fraudulent medical information” about her visit to the Nairobi hospital.
The hospital, meanwhile, describes Sumgong’s paperwork evidence as ‘fake’ and denies knowledge of her visit. In addition, her anti-doping whereabouts records show she was in Kapsabet, a drive of several hours from Nairobi by car.
She received a four-year ban from April 2017 but this week she was handed an eight-year ban after the independent tribunal judged that she committed a second anti-doping offence of “tampering with a doping control”.
Michael Beloff QC, chair of the independent tribunal and a long-time AW reader, said he found “compelling evidence demonstrating the athlete submitted false medical documents to an anti-doping organisation and to the tribunal”.
On Sumgong’s claim that she was in a Nairobi hospital when anti-doping records show she was in Kapsabet, Beloff added: “To put the matter colloquially, she could not be in two places at once.”
It is a spectacular fall from grace for an athlete who became, in 2016, the first Kenyan woman to win the Olympic marathon title. During the same year she mirrored the feat of fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge by winning the London Marathon and Olympic marathon titles, but while Kipchoge has gone on to be lauded as the greatest marathoner in history, Sumgong looks set to be remembered as one of its biggest cheats.
For the 34-year-old, the eight-year period of ineligibility is effectively a life ban from athletics as the IAAF’s independent disciplinary tribunal judged that she is barred from the sport until January 2027, by which time she will be aged 42.
“We hope that it sends a message to dopers that the AIU has strong investigative capabilities and does not tolerate false evidence in doping cases,” said Brett Clothier, the head of the AIU.