Features 7 November 2017

ADAK sanctions Jemima Sumgong with a four year ban

The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) has sanctioned Rio 2016 Marathon winner Jemima Sumgong with a four year ban, after she returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for erythropoietin (EPO) on 28 February this year. In the 31 October decision (PDF below), The Kenyan Sports Disputes Tribunal details evidence that medical documents were faked regarding Sumgong’s alleged receipt of EPO as part of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy.

In the hearing, which took place on 18 October, Sumgong alleged that she had received treatment including a blood transfusion and ‘unidentified medication’ at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on 22 February 2017. She argued that she had not disclosed this information to anyone, including her husband and former coach, Noah Talam, due to local taboos associated with the condition.

She provided treatment sheets to ADAK, however following checks of her medical records, the KNH denied that she had been treated on 22 February, but confirmed a subsequent consultative visit on 18 April concerning ectopic pregnancy – after her 28 February AAF. ‘This response is contained in a detailed letter from the Hospital dated 9 June 2017, in which the Hospital sets out in some detail the procedure for record keeping and retrieval and asserts quite emphatically that the medical sheets provided by the Athlete were not authentic’, reads the decision.

The KNH also pointed out that EPO is not routinely used for ectopic pregnancy cases, and all patients with that condition are admitted for at least four days. The KNH argues that ectopic pregnancy patients are issued with a discharge sheet detailing treatment. ‘The Athlete had not presented any of these documents’, reads the decision. ‘The Hospital therefore concluded that the author of the note dated 22 February 2017 purportedly issued by the Hospital could only be an imposter’.

Sumgong argued that the doctor who treated her could have been an imposter, due to a doctor’s strike that was taking place at the time. This explanation was rejected by ADAK. ‘In ADAK’s view, as the athlete works with the KDF [Kenya Defence Forces], she had access to the Armed Forces Memorial Hospital which was a short distance from KNH and no explanation had 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’, reads the decision. ‘It was ADAK’s position that the substance was being used for the preparation of the London Marathon’.

In its reasoning, the Panel noted that Sumgong did not declare her treatment on the Doping Control Form (DCF), despite the alleged treatment (22 February) having been administered less than seven days prior to sample collection (28 February). ‘Indeed, we might go as far as to state that the Athlete’s attempt to explain how the substance entered her body bordered on an attempt to deceive the Panel in view of the Hospital’s denial that the Athlete attended the Hospital for any treatment whatsoever’, it concluded.

The Panel determined that Sumgong should serve a four year ban from 3 April 2017, the date on which she was provisionally suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). This means that Sumgong is likely to lose her 2017 World Marathon Majors (WMM) title, as stated by organisers. Under Article 13.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code, she has 21 days in which to appeal the decision, which means that any appeal must be filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by 20 November.

Sumgong is managed by Rosa Associati, which was suspended from working with Kenyan athletes by Athletics Kenya in April 2015. In July 2016, Italian coach Federico Rosa was released on bail after facing criminal charges relating to doping.

Rosa Associati also represented Rita Jeptoo, whom Athletics Kenya banned for two years on 2 February last year, after a positive test for EPO. The company also represented Amantle Montsho, who abandoned an appeal a two-year sanction following a positive test at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games due to rising costs.

The company also represented marathon runner Mathew Kisorio, who completed a 2012 two-year ban after testing positive for steroids. Kisorio was involved in German journalist Hajo Seppelt’s 2012 investigation into doping in Eldoret. He told Seppelt that many Kenyan athletes were doping and that Athletics Kenya was ignoring the situation. As reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative yesterday, the IAAF is still investigating the situation in Kenya.

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