Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto banned for six years in doping case

Friday, June 7th, 2024 22:32 | By
Kenyan athlete Rhonex Kipruto speaks to journalists after winning a past race. PHOTO/Print.

Kenya’s 10km road race world record holder Rhonex Kipruto has been banned for six years because of irregularities found in his Athlete Biological Passport.

A disciplinary panel ruled that abnormalities in Kipruto’s blood samples pointed to “a deliberate and sophisticated doping regime” and Kipruto likely had help from unknown third parties. At the time, he was striving to qualify for the last Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The panel imposed a six-year ban because of what it deemed the “aggravating circumstances” in the case, up from a standard four-year doping ban.

“The Tribunal rejected Kipruto’s defence, concluding the ‘cause for the abnormalities in the ABP is more likely to be due to blood manipulation’ such as through the use of recombinant human erythropoietin (rEPO),” said the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which has enforced the ban.

“There was ‘no other plausible explanation’ for the abnormal values.”

The 24-year-old Kipruto was disqualified from all his results in September 2018, meaning he lost a world championship bronze medal in the 10,000 meters in 2019 and his 10k road record from 2020. That record is set to pass to Ethiopian runner Berihu Aregawi. He ran 26 minutes, 33 seconds in the 10k last year, nine seconds slower than Kipruto’s time.

No banned substance was found in Kipruto’s system and the case rested on data from his biological passport, which tracks athletes’ blood samples over time to detect irregularities and changes that point to blood doping.

The panel said Kipruto’s defense sought to blame illnesses, irregular training habits, and his alcohol use, which it said had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kipruto also sought to dispute the validity of some blood samples in the case.

A statement on Kipruto’s website dated Tuesday and attributed to unnamed legal counsel indicated he is considering an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Despite exhaustive efforts to present comprehensive medical evidence and expert testimonies, the ruling failed to consider crucial aspects of Rhonex’s health and circumstances,” the statement said.

It is the latest in a series of doping cases involving Kenyan distance runners.

Fellow Kenyan runner Rodgers Kwemoi, who placed fourth behind Kipruto in the world championship 10,000 in 2019, was banned for six years last month in a similar case based on blood sample data.

He will remain banned until May 2029 after being provisionally suspended on 11 May 2023 for violating anti-doping rules but can appeal against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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