Former Olympic and three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya was banned for four years Saturday for testing positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO after his claim that urine samples might have been tampered with by disreputable doping control officers was rejected.
The 2008 Olympic 1500-meter champion failed an out-of-competition test in his home country in November 2017. His backup 'B' sample also tested positive for EPO.
But his case was complicated when it was revealed he was given advance notice of the visit by Kenyan anti-doping officers — a clear breach of testing protocol. Kiprop also conceded he paid money to one of the officers following the test.
The 29-year-old Kiprop, who won three straight world titles from 2011-2015, said his original and backup samples could have been tampered with when he left them unattended for a short time, while he got his cellphone to make a money transfer to one of them soon after the test was conducted.
In a separate defense, he also said the elevated levels of EPO in his system might have been "natural EPO" caused by intense training at high altitude in Kenya. Another defense Kiprop used was that medication he took a week before the test might have caused the positive result.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for the IAAF, rejected all of Kiprop's explanations and banned him from competition until February 2022. His results from Nov. 27, 2017 to Feb. 3, 2018 were disqualified.
The AIU said the advance notice of the test and the $30 Kiprop paid to one of the officers — apparently for miscellaneous expenses like refreshments and gas for his car — was clearly improper but couldn't have affected the test findings.
"There is no justice in the world," said Kiprop Saturday. "Not every prisoner in jail is guilty. I will consult my lawyer to see if I will appeal at CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport), but no matter the outcome I will be back stronger."
His case cast further doubt on the quality of the anti-doping efforts in Kenya, the distance-running powerhouse that has had its reputation badly eroded by dozens of cases in recent years.
Kiprop was awarded the gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after race winner Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain failed a doping test and had his medal stripped.