Asbel Kiprop Keeping It Weird

Kiprop is one of the most dominating middle-distance runners of all-time. Photo: Erik van Leeuwen

As with many doping stories, this is a weird one, and due to the stature of the accused party, is getting a lot of attention.

Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion (he was elevated from silver after Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test), three-time world champion, and fifth fastest 1500m runner of all-time, not only claims he’s innocent, but said in a statement that Kenyan anti-doping officers tipped him off to the test (this is a huge no-no) while also extorting money from him (also not allowed, obviously). Oh yeah, and the IAAF—the sport’s governing body—allegedly offered him an ambassadorial role if he admitted to doping (which the IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit denies). I’m interested to see how all of this plays out but I suspect we might be waiting a while. The cover-up stories/explanations from guilty/accused parties in these cases are almost always outrageous, inconsistent, and unbelievable, but this one seems especially so given that the last few details I shared only further muddy what is already a big mess.

Here’s the first (and only) interview Kiprop gave after the ordeal was first made public and here’s an interview I did back in 2014 with Kiprop’s agent, Federico Rosa, immediately after another of his star athletes, Rita Jeptoo, got popped for EPO. So far, no word from Rosa or his camp on the most recent matter, but Kiprop is at least the fourth of Rosa’s athletes to test positive for EPO in the past several years. That’s not a good look and many Kenyans feel Rosa’s agency is destroying the careers of many athletes, as well as the country’s reputation. And while all of that might be true, Adharanand Finn, author of Running With The Kenyansstressed in a recent op-ed piece that:

The fact that the big-name Kenyans caught or reportedly caught doping—Matthew Kisorio, Rita Jeptoo, Jemima Sumgong, Asbel Kiprop—all have connections to the same management group should be more significant than the fact they’re all Kenyan…When you hear that former Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop has failed a drugs test, it is sad and a shame, and it may arouse your suspicions of everyone, but it doesn’t instantly prove that Eliud Kipchoge and co are only winning all those marathons because they too are doping. Don’t add one and one together and get two thousand doping Kenyans. That’s not good maths, and, in my opinion, it’s not fair.

Finn makes a couple good points here: It’s not fair to the non-Rosa athletes in Kenya (of which there are many) and Rosa’s operation should certainly be investigated even further than it has been up to this point, as multiple athletes from the same management agency failing tests for EPO doesn’t just happen by coincidence.

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