Kenyans doping infraction now at World Record level

Kenyans doping infraction now at World Record level

It was sometime during coffee break number two or number three when the email landed alerting us to another Kenyan runner who had been done for doping.

This time Rhonex Kipruto, a random name to some, better known to others. Actually, Kipruto was named right here only last month, when pointing out how Jake O’Regan had won the Great Ireland 10km Run in the Phoenix Park in 26 minutes and eight seconds, bettering the world record of 26:42 which Kipruto ran in 2020.

Except O’Regan had only run around 8.5km, the 2,000 runners in that race sent the wrong way and unwittingly finishing well short. Turns out Kipruto may have been taking a sort of short cut too, the Athlete Integrity Unit (AIU), the independent anti-doping body of world athletics, announcing his suspension on Wednesday after identifying biological passport irregularities.

At the time something about Kipruto’s world record – which came four months after he won 10,000m bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Doha – looked too good to be true. Which in this sport, more often than not, means it probably is.

Kipruto is trained by celebrated Irish coach Brother Colm O’Connell, the now 23-year-old runner joining his St Patrick’s High School training camp in Iten as a 15-year-old. Both runner and coach have strongly denied the charge, O’Connell saying “our strategy is to train hard, and that’s the only way we achieve results”.

Kipruto may be the first runner associated with O’Connell to be suspended, but he joins the list of Kenyan doping charges now running at a world record pace of its own. Last year, there were 25 reported AIU cases in Kenya, the overall number currently suspended (named or otherwise) running close to 100.

According to the AIU, Kipruto is charged with “Use of a Prohibited Substance/Method”, due to his suspicious blood readings, the biological passport not identifying any banned substance per se, only evidence something is being manipulated. The bar is set high; the AIU need to be very sure before they proceed, and they invariably are.

Last November World Athletics decided against imposing an outright ban on Kenya, despite this spate of doping offences. The plan instead is to ramp up the testing and hope the message eventually gets across.