6 November 2017

‘Faked’ documents led UKAD to close Kenyan investigation

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) closed its investigation into allegations that three British athletes were supplied with erythropoietin (EPO) by Kenyan doctors in August after finding documents had been faked, reports the Mail on Sunday. UKAD opened an investigation in July 2016, after a Sunday Times and  ARD investigation filmed Kenyan doctors working in the Eldoret/Kapsabet region claiming to have supplied the three athletes with the drug. Footage included the medical file of a top British athlete, which was produced as ‘proof’ that the doctor had supplied 50 European athletes with the drug.

The medical documentation featured in the Sunday Times and ARD investigation (video below) as evidence that the doctors concerned had supplied British athletes with prohibited drugs. As the undercover investigators used by the Sunday Times and ARD were British, the doctors concerned were only prepared to show them medical documentation relating to three British athletes.

How UKAD have managed to verify that the documentation is faked is unknown, as UKAD does not comment on investigations unless there is a case to answer. The original investigators are convinced that the documentation supplied to them is genuine. Their investigation centred around Ken Kipchumba, a clinical officer at St. Luke’s hospital in Eldoret, who was filmed claiming to have supplied 50 European athletes with EPO.

Kipchumba is one of three men who have been charged with supplying prohibited substances by Kenyan authorities, reports the Mail on Sunday. The others are understood to be doctor Samson Talei and Eldoret pharmacist Joseph Mwangi, who was alleged to have supplied EPO to athletes in the ARD documentary.

A subsequent investigation by the Sunday Times and ARD found that Michael Rotich, former manager of Kenya’s Rio 2016 track and field delegation, had colluded with Mwangi to give athletics coaches 12 hours based in the Eldoret/Kapsabet region notice of when doping tests would take place. Rotich alleged that British doping control officers (DCOs) would be able to supply him with test details. The Mail on Sunday reports that a world record holder has testified to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) investigators that such tip offs took place.

Rotich was provisionally suspended for 180 days by the IAAF on 12 August 2016. The Sports Integrity Initiative has asked the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the IAAF about the outcome of that investigation. In February 2016, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, Canadian Marathon runner Reid Coolsaet alleged that IAAF-accredited tests in Kenya were lacking. In a subsequent interview, he alleged that the DCO in charge of the test had apologised for the late notice, after notifying him that he would be tested the following day.

A Kenyan former athlete and policeman involved in investigations into the situation, Julius Ndegwa, told the Mail on Sunday that he had been refused access to a training camp used by British Athletics. He told the newspaper that he had only been granted access after telling Sharad Rao, the former judge leading the IAAF’s investigations into Kenyan allegations, about the situation. Rao is also named in the above statement as the chief investigator into the allegations against Rotich.

As The Sports Integrity Initiative reported last week, anti-doping organisations (ADOs) operating in Africa faced additional difficulties after having taken samples from athletes. During 2016, during the Rio Olympics, the only African anti-doping laboratory in South Africa had its accreditation suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which meant that any samples taken from athletes on the continent had to be sent to Doha for analysis. In November 2016, the situation was compounded when WADA suspended the Doha laboratory.

The three British athletes interviewed by UKAD were all visitors to the High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) in Iten, Kenya, which was implicated in the original Sunday Times and ARD investigation. It featured footage of used packets of EPO and needles in the training camp’s bins, as well as footage of a Kenyan pacesetter at the camp, arranging to buy EPO from Mwangi in his Eldoret pharmacy for €60.

The pacesetter, Fredrick Lemishen Ngoyon (‘Freddy’), has denied any part in arranging to supply EPO to athletes, and has claimed that he was set up by the documentary makers, a claim they deny. “It is true that we visited twice, however the idea that we set him up is nonsense, as you can see from the raw footage”, said Hajo Seppelt, who produced ARD’s coverage of the 2016 investigation.

The Eldoret/Kapsabet region, at 2,100 metres above sea level, is the gateway city to high-altitude training in surrounding Kenyan villages. Over a sustained period, altitude training is thought to benefit athletes as lower oxygen levels mean that the body increases red blood cell and haemoglobin production. This aids the blood in carrying oxygen to the muscles, a benefit that remains for 10-14 days when the athlete returns to lower altitude.

In July 2016, Italian coach Federico Rosa was released on bail after facing criminal charges relating to doping. Rosa’s company, Rosa e Associati, was suspended from working with athletes in April 2015, as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative. Rosa Associati 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 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.

It is understood that the IAAF, headed by Rao, is still investigating the situation in Kenya. “These are serious allegations”, a spokesperson told the Mail on Sunday. “The IAAF Ethics Board, the independent judicial body, is currently undertaking an extensive investigation into doping control process allegations in Kenya. We await the conclusion of this investigation.”

• A day after this article was published, The Sports Integrity Initiative discovered that the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) had sanctioned Jemima Sumgong with a four year ban after she returned an AAF for EPO. In the 31 October decision (PDF below), ADAK details evidence that medical documents were faked regarding Sumgong’s alleged receipt of EPO as part of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. Sumgong is also managed by Rosa Associati.

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