Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong was banned for four years for EPO after a doping tribunal rejected her explanation that the blood-boosting hormone was in her system because she had been treated at a hospital in Kenya days before her failed test.
The tribunal found no legitimate record of the hospital visit and treatment for an ectopic pregnancy claimed by Sumgong, it said Tuesday in a decision released by the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya.
The panel ruling on her case said the 32-year-old Sumgong's hospital story was "inconsistent at best."
"We might go so far as to state that the athlete's attempt to explain how the substance entered her body bordered on an attempt to deceive the panel," the ruling said.
Sumgong became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic gold in the marathon when she triumphed at last year's Rio de Janeiro Games. She failed an out-of-competition test on Feb. 28 and was banned for four years from April 3, the date her provisional suspension was announced.
It makes her ineligible for the 2019 world championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"Following the decision by the Anti Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) to ban Jemima Sumgong for four years, the athlete has 21 days to appeal," said Nick Bitel, General Counsel to Abbott World Marathon Majors, said via statement. "If there is no appeal, or if there is and the ban is subsequently confirmed, then Sumgong's results in Series X will be annulled. Florence Kiplagat will be declared the winner of the series and be awarded the prize money. Sumgong would also be banned from all Abbott World Marathon Majors (AbbottWMM) races for life.
"AbbottWMM will continue to do everything we can to ensure cheats are caught and do not benefit from cheating. We are determined to make marathon running a safe haven from doping. In addition to testing operated by the IAAF and national federations, Abbott WMM has set up one of the largest private testing pool of athletes in sport, with the aim of testing 150 competitors out of competition a minimum of six times a year.
"Sumgong's positive test came from one of the Abbott WMM-funded out of competition tests."
Sumgong is the highest-profile athlete on a long list of Kenyans to be banned for doping in recent years. Her case follows that of Rita Jeptoo, who was the top women's marathon runner in the world when she also tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test in Kenya in 2014. Jeptoo also received a four-year ban.
Sumgong waived her right to have her backup "B" sample tested and said she had taken EPO unintentionally after visiting Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi six days before her doping test to be treated for an ectopic pregnancy. She claimed she was suffering from severe abdominal pain and was given a blood transfusion and unidentified medication by an unnamed doctor.
The Olympic champion couldn't provide the name of the doctor who supposedly treated her or reliable documents showing she was admitted to the hospital, the tribunal said. It said documents she provided were denounced as fake by the hospital.
The hospital visit was not disclosed by Sumgong at the time of the doping test. She said that was because of the "taboo" surrounding ectopic pregnancies and she wanted to hide it from her husband, who is also her manager.
The only record the hospital had of a visit by Sumgong was in April, when she inquired about treatment for ectopic pregnancies.
The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya said it believed Sumgong was taking EPO ahead of the defense of her London Marathon title in April.
Sumgong has also won the Rotterdam and Las Vegas Marathons and finished runner-up in the Boston, Chicago and New York races.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.