11 July 2016

UKAD to investigate allegations that Kenyan doctors supplied EPO

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is to investigate claims by Kenyan doctors working in the Eldoret/Kapsabet region that they supplied erythropoietin (EPO) to three British athletes. The claims were made in undercover footage that featured in a joint ARD/Sunday Times documentary, which aired in Germany on Saturday and featured in a Sunday Times article.

A UKAD statement confirmed that two staff have been dispatched to Kenya to investigate the allegations, which included footage (video below) of a clinical officer at St. Luke’s hospital in Eldoret claiming to have supplied 50 athletes from all over Europe. However, as undercover investigators were English, Ken Kipchumba Limo was only prepared to supply them with the names of British athletes he claimed to have treated. The undercover footage also shows the medical file of a top UK athlete he claimed to have supplied with EPO.

ARD and the Sunday Times have supplied the names of the athletes to the Kenyan authorities. The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) said that the allegations were “shocking” and admitted that they revealed the stark issues that the fledgling agency faces on the ground.

The investigation also implicated the High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) at Iten, 2,400m above sea level. The video features footage of used packets of EPO and needles in the training camp’s bins. It also features footage of a Kenyan pacesetter at the camp, used by European athletes, arranging to buy EPO from pharmacist Joseph Mwangi in Eldoret for the equivalent of €60. Both have since been arrested, and Limo has told ARD and the Sunday Times that he fabricated his story in order to attract business.

The HATC camp is run by husband and wife team Lornah Kiplagat and Pieter Langerhorst. Kiplagat who has held distance world records and competed for the Netherlands at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics. Langerhorst dismissed any suggestion that the camp was complicit in any doping of athletes.

“We have 16 cameras installed to monitor what is going on, and we must be the only training centre in the world that always tells the IAAF which athletes are staying here, and in which rooms, to allow them to test at short notice”,  he told The Guardian. “The ARD documentary alleged that packets of EPO were found in a bin on our premises. But from what I have read, EPO needs to be stored in a refrigerator and at the HATC there is just one communal fridge, which all the athletes use.”

“The only time we allowed another fridge was last year, when Kyle Barber, the IAAF’s out-of-competition testing and intelligence coordinator, wanted to take blood from some athletes”, he continued. “We booked him into two rooms under my name so that no one would be aware he was coming. What more can I do? I am happy to sit down with the two UKAD investigators because I have nothing to hide. I would have also happily spoken to the Sunday Times and ARD, too. I have known Hajo Seppelt for a while, but he never even made an attempt to contact me.”

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. A number of endurance athletes have trained in this area – including Britain’s Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe ahead of the London 2012 Olympics.

Last week, Italian coach Federico Rosa was released on bail after facing criminal charges. Rosa’s company, Rosa e Associati, was suspended from working with athletes in April last year, as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative. Rosa Associati represented Rita Jeptoo, whom Athletics Kenya banned for two years on 2 February, after a positive test for EPO. The company also represented Amantle Montsho, who had planned to 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.

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