20 November 2019

IAAF dismiss test evasion charge against Kenyan

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has been forced to drop a test evasion charge against Kenyan distance runner Jacob Kibet Chulyo Kendagor, as it could be proven that the person approached by Doping Control Officers (DCOs) was the athlete. Kendagor was provisionally suspended on 9 July by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the IAAF for ‘Evading, Refusing or Failing to Submit to Sample Collection’, as the result of a failed testing mission on 21 November 2018.

According to the Full Decision (PDF below), two DCOs arrived at an address in Eldoret as part of a mission to collect samples from a number of athletes in the region for the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) programme. 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. 

An individual told them that he had retired from athletics and gave his name as ‘Chepkwony’. They were subsequently told that Kendagor lived at that address, and an internet search indicated that was the person they had met.

A letter from Kendagor claimed that the DCOs had not asked for a particular athlete, Chepkwony was his neighbour and had refused to give a sample as he had retired from the sport three years previously. Charles Hollander QC, Chair of the IAAF Disciplinary Panel, said that both DCOs gave convincing evidence that they ‘believed it was Mr Kendagor they had seen’.

Hollander said that the case turned on whether the IAAF had shown to the level of ‘comfortable satisfaction’ that Kendagor had met the DCOs. ‘In order to be so satisfied, it seems to me I must find that all five witnesses called on behalf of the Athlete were telling a pack of lies, and in essence were guilty of what amounted to a criminal conspiracy to defraud’, writes Hollander. ‘I do not consider I have the material to make such a finding’.

Despite the IAAF pointing out that statements from five witnesses called by Kendagor suggesting a ‘measure of collaboration’ between them, the failure to photograph Chepkwony meant that the identification evidence was ‘less compelling than might have been the case’. As a result, Hollander concluded: ‘I am not satisfied to the level of comfortable satisfaction that the individual seen by the DCO and BCO was the Athlete’, and dismissed the charge.

The AIU said that it is considering appealing the decision on behalf of World Athletics. The IAAF changed its name to World Athletics on 11 November.

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