Once, and only once, a long, long time ago, I met an athlete who openly confessed that he had taken drugs. Not unknowingly. Not unwittingly. Had knowingly taken drugs because he thought he needed them to be competitive.
Back in 1992, a not particularly well-known British discus-thrower and shot-putter, Neal Brunning, tested positive for testosterone at the National Indoor Championships in Birmingham. "Don’t bother to test the B sample," the burly Londoner reportedly said. "I know what’s in it."
Speaking to Brunning a couple of years later was instructive. He was candid. "I did it because I felt others in my event were doing it,” he said. "I thought, 'If they can do it and get away with it, then let’s have a go'."
Down the years, as other more exalted names have joined that of Brunning on the list of the doped and dishonoured, one has had to become inured to matching innocent faces with guilty facts.
The sleek, fleet Katrin Krabbe of East Germany - but then, what choice would she have had? Marion Jones - bright, smiling, a University of North Carolina graduate in journalism and mass communications, communicating her intention to go for five gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It took the FBI to get the truth of her doping past, seven years down the line.
All sports endure this. Some - athletics prominently among them - take serious steps to combat it.
But if anyone starts to feel like rehearsing the familiar cynical refrain – "What’s the point? Why not just let them all get on with it?” – remember that that is the ultimate betrayal of honest sportsmen and women, who I believe are in the majority in all sports, if not always packing the top echelons in some cases. Although it would be just as much of a betrayal if there were only one honest athlete involved.
Route two here would take us on a familiar journey, albeit with fresh twists and turns, past the absurd excuses offered for positive tests. Another time, perhaps.
In common, I am sure, with many other athletics enthusiasts, I am finding the news just reported that Kenya’s former Olympic and three-times world 1500 metres champion Asbel Kiprop has tested positive for the banned blood-booster erythropoieti (EPO) particularly dispiriting.
If this is confirmed, it will be a terrible piece of news about an athlete who has been the main man in the metric mile for the best part of the past decade. Although, as the Daily Mail, which broke the story, justly pointed out, "it is a measure of the IAAF's willingness to catch even the biggest names since the formation of the Athletics Integrity Unit under the presidency of Lord Coe."
Hearing such news about any performer automatically prompts a forlorn review of all their past achievements.
The thing about Kiprop is that his story, since he came to prominence at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been that of a young athlete cynically robbed of the 1500m gold he should have had at those first Games by the doping of the Bahraini athlete Rasheed Ramzi, whose victory on the day was annulled when he subsequently tested positive for continuous erythropoietin receptor activator (CERA), a variant of the banned EPO.
While the stick-thin Kiprop ended up with the medal, the nature of the process was a metaphorical thorn in his side, even while he was amassing three World Championship titles.
What now of that identity as a victim? Inevitably, thoughts are turning to others whom he may have made victims. In covering the latest claim, for instance, the New Zealand Herald headline read: "Asbel Kiprop who beat Nick Willis for gold tests positive for banned substance – report”.
Willis moved up to silver after Ramzi’s Beijing disqualification. So now what?...
Four years ago in Doha, on the day before the opening International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League meeting of the season, I asked Kiprop about the news that American sprinter Tyson Gay had had his doping suspension reduced from two years to one in exchange for providing information to the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
I wondered if Kiprop, who had just run through a relatively uneventful "so how are you feeling about the new season?" press conference, would want to make any comment on what was a contentious topic.
He didn’t hesitate.
"I think it is the wrong message to send," he said, his large eyes staring fixedly into mine.
"If reductions on bans are going to be made, athletes will take advantage of it.
"They should tell what they know anyway.
"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 life bans."
It is understood Kiprop is arguing there has been an error with a sample taken in late 2017.
The Star, in Kenya, reports Kiprop’s statement in the wake of the news:
"I have read reports linking me to doping.
"As an athlete, I have been in the forefront of the fight against doping in Kenya, a fight I strongly believe in and support.
"I would not want to ruin all what I have worked for since my first international race in 2007.
"I hope I can prove that I am a clean athlete in every way possible."
He’s not the only one hoping that.