Exclusive: Kenyan Olympic champions say Tyson Gay's doping ban reduction sends "wrong message"

Wednesday, 07 May 2014
By Mike Rowbottom at the Hotel Intercontinental Doha - The City

Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, pictured after defending his world 1500m title last year, is strongly opposed to 'plea bargaining' on doping bans ©Getty Images Kenyan Olympic champions Asbel Kiprop and Ezekiel Kemboi have voiced their total opposition to the system of "plea bargaining" which has recently seen US sprinter Tyson Gay's  doping suspension reduced from two to one years in exchange for the provision of information to the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

"I think it is the wrong message to send," Kiprop told insidethegames as he looked ahead to Friday's (May 9) opening International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) Diamond League meeting here.

"If reductions on bans are going to be made, athletes will take advantage of it.

"They should tell what they know anyway."

Kiprop, a double world 1500 metre champion, became Olympic 1500m champion retrospectively after the original winner at the 2008 Beijing Games, Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain, was stripped of the title for doping.

Both he and Kemboi, double Olympic champion in the 3000m steeplechase, want the sport to introduce life bans for doping offences.

Ezekiel Kemboi, pictured dancing after regaining the Olympic 3000m steeplechase title at London 2012, is opposed to 'plea bargaining' in doping cases and wants life bans introduced ©Getty ImagesEzekiel Kemboi, pictured dancing after regaining the Olympic 3000m steeplechase title at London 2012, is opposed to '"plea bargaining" in doping cases and wants life bans introduced ©Getty Images

Kemboi also objected to the idea of reducing bans in exchange for information.

"Personally I don't think it is a good idea," he said.

"If a ban is four years, let it be four years. If you are an athlete and you have cheated, you have to pay. Take your ban. Even if it is for the first time, it doesn't matter. Athletes have to ask what is in anything they take. They have to take responsibility.

"I propose athletes who cheat should be banned for life. It is not good in sports. Sport is all about togetherness, friendship. So why do you need to cheat to win?"

Kiprop added: "It all relies on the individuals. Because some people they are greedy for success and to make money.

"It is not good for them to race with the clean athletes.

"I think it is important to have tough penalties.

"I totally agree with Ezekiel about life bans."

Gay, the second fastest man in the world behind Usain Bolt, tested positive for a banned steroid at last year's US Championships.

His ban has been calculated from the day he gave the sample, June 23, so he will be eligible to return to competition at the end of next month.

Tyson Gay (left) has had a two year doping ban reduced to a year after 'co-operating' with US anti-doping authorities ©Getty ImagesTyson Gay (left) has had a two year doping ban reduced to a year after 'co-operating' with US anti-doping authorities ©Getty Images

In a statement issued last Friday, US Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) chief executive, Travis Tygart, commented: "We appreciate Tyson doing the right thing by immediately withdrawing from competition once he was notified, accepting responsibility for his decisions, and fully and truthfully cooperating with us in our ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding his case."

Eunice Sum, Kenya's world 800m champion, added her support to a harder line on doping.

"If somebody is taking drugs that is wrong," she said.

"I think bans should be for life."

Britain's European indoor 800m champion Jenny Meadows, who will make her first outdoor appearance for three years following a persistent Achilles tendon injury when she runs in at the Qatar Sports Club track, also disagreed with the principle of "plea bargaining".

"I feel really strongly about this," said the 33-year-old former world and European bronze medallist, who was moved up from silver to gold in the 2011 European indoors after Russia's original winner Yevgeniya Zinurova tested positive.

"For the last few years I haven't had any funding, I haven't had any sponsorship, and I have been trying to fight to keep my career going, and some people dope and take a short cut.

"So obviously I am very anti-doping.

"I do think that that people who have taken drugs should provide information to help catch other people in future, but I don't think the bans should be reduced.

"I think we need harsher penalties.

"If someone has doped they have cheated other people out of a position.

"It's cheating and it's stealing really.

"If people want to help, great.

"But I don't think there should be a reduction in the penalty."

Contact the writer of this story at mike.rowbottom@insidethegames.biz


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