NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 25 – The 2016 Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong has had her doping ban increased to eight years after her claims that she was injected with EPO by an “imposter” at a Kenyan hospital during a doctor’s strike were dismissed.
The unprecedented sanction was made after the IAAF’s independent disciplinary tribunal ruled there was “compelling evidence” Sumgong had also fabricated her medical records and lied about her whereabouts after a positive test for EPO in 2017, for which she later received a four-year ban.
That ban was doubled by the IAAF on Friday after the tribunal, chaired by Michael Beloff QC, decided Sumgong had committed a second anti-doping offence of “tampering with a doping control”. Because of changes to the World Anti-Doping Agency code the Kenyan was able to be punished with another four-year ban.
The ruling means Sumgong, who was the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic marathon gold, is banned until 3 April 2025.
The news was welcomed by Brett Clothier, the head of the Athletics Integrity Unit, who said it struck a blow against doping in Kenyan. “We hope that it sends a message to dopers that the AIU has strong investigative capabilities and does not tolerate false evidence in doping cases,” he said.
“We also want to underline the vital support of Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya in pursuing this case. They are a valuable partner in the fight against doping in Kenya.”
The remarkable case began when Sumgong tested positive for EPO in April 2017 – and then tried to explain it away by saying she had suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy on the 22-23 February 2017 which had led to an injection and a blood transfusion at a Nairobi hospital.
Shortly afterwards Sumgong, who had previously suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 2009, also provided anti-doping officials with five fabricated hospital documents to support her case.
However the Kenyan hospital confirmed she had not visited the hospital in February 2017, said her documents were fake because they lacked a unique hospital number, and insisted that such a serious problem as a ruptured ectopic pregnancy would have required a four-day stay at an acute gynaecology ward.
Sumgong later claimed she had been treated by an “imposter” because there had been a doctor’s strike which explained the lack of a proper record of her visit. However she was unable to explain how Wada’s whereabouts records showed she was in Kapsabet – a five-hour drive away – at the time.
In explaining his verdict, Beloff said he found “compelling evidence demonstrating the athlete submitted false medical documents to an anti-doping organisation and to the tribunal”.
“[It] can only be analysed as a deliberate attempt to prevent the administration of justice in her case,” he said. “Perjury and forgery inevitably go beyond the bounds of legitimate defence under any civilised system of law.”
Beloff also noted that Sumgong had also failed to provide evidence she had travelled to Nairobi in late February. “To put the matter colloquially she couldn’t be in two places at once,” he wrote.