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Olympic champion Sumgong slapped with a four year ban

Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong celebrates her victory in the Women's Marathon during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. (Photo by Johannes EISELE-Pool/Getty Images)
by Mercy Njue, AIPS Young Reporter, Kenya

NAIROBI, November 7, 2017 - Marathon Olympic champion Jemima Jelagat Sumgong was slapped with a four-year ban by the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) for using EPO- a banned blood booster substance on Tuesday 7 November.

Last April, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) announced that urine tests from the 32-year old had tested positive for EPO.

During the hearing on October 18, Sumgong - who is the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic medal in the 2016 Rio marathon- argued that on February 22 2017, she was treated at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) but had not disclosed her treatment that included blood transfusion, to her manager, since it’s a taboo in her community.

The Hospital however refuted her treatment claims. According to KNH, Sumgong was not treated on February 22 as claimed, but went for a checkup concerning ectopic pregnancy in April 2017. KNH went ahead to state that the substance found in her sample, EPO, is not a drug they use to treat patients with ectopic pregnancy related complications. Further, the hospital distanced themselves from the claims, stating that all patients checking in with ectopic pregnancy related conditions are admitted for at least four days at the institution and issued with a discharge sheet on the day of being discharge, something Sumgong did not provide to the ADAK panel.

Following KNH’s stand, Sumgong argued that she may have been treated by an imposter due to a doctor’s strike that was on at the time, an argument that ADAK rejected, stating that since she is a Kenya Defense Force (KDF) officer, it would have been easier for her to seek medical attention at the KDF hospital rather than KNH.

“In ADAK’s view, as the Athlete works with the KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) she had access to the Armed Forces Memorial Hospital which is a short distance from KNH. No explanation has been given for the athlete’s decision to seek medical attention at KNH rather than the medical facility available to the athlete by virtue of her employment” read ADAK’s decision in part.

“Indeed, we might go as far as to state that the athletes attempt to explain how the substance entered her body bordered on an attempt to deceive the panel in view of the hospitals denial that the athlete attended the Hospital for any treatment whatsoever”, concluded the statement.

Sumgong’s ban takes effect from 3 April 2017, the date she was provisionally suspended by IAAF. She has until 20 November to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The reigning London marathon champion is managed by Rosa Associati which was suspended by Athletics Kenya in April 2015.

Follow Mercy Njueh @senator_mercy

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