Is Asbel on his way back to track?

Asbel Kiprop during the 2010 Africa Championships / FILE
Asbel Kiprop during the 2010 Africa Championships / FILE

The 2008 Olympic Games 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop could be headed for a breakthrough in the wake of his doping case that has lasted one year.

A source at the National Police Service has revealed that the Athletics Integrity Unit has requested the lanky runner to resume training. “Kiprop has been provisionally suspended by the AIU for the past one year and his hopes of having his name in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games start list has received a major boost,” the source reckons.

Kiprop was notified of a failed test on February 3, 2018 and was thus put on provisional suspension as investigations continue, a year down the line. But in an interview, Kiprop said he is not in a position to discuss the contents of the letter, instead offering to highlight some of the challenges he has faced since the anti-doping rules violation notification.

“I wouldn’t want to discuss that letter since, on my part, it is confidential,” said Kiprop. “However, I am ready to discuss how my life has been for the last one year. Actually, it feels like a decade. It (the notification) got me by shock because, honestly, I did not dope.”

“I have had very challenging moments. Being ridiculed by my competitors, fellow athletes, the society and the sports world in general. Nobody wants to be associated with a doper. It is such a heavy burden for me, especially knowing that I did not do it yet I have been put in that category.”

“I was abandoned by my manager, sponsor, federation (Athletics Kenya) and left to fight on my own. Failing a drug test is a disgrace to an athlete, his country, his coaches and even his stable. Sometimes, I don’t sleep, hoping that these people (AIU) will one day find the root-cause of this error. They say they are still doing the investigations and since they say it is confidential, they are unable to tell me or my lawyers the nature of the investigations,” he adds.

“I don’t want to interfere since I know they care about athletics and that they want to have a clean sport. I am hoping they find out where the error occurred to prevent another athlete from undergoing this humiliation in the future,” he noted. “There is so must trust in the sample collection and testing process which is a disaster on it’s own. “I wonder what would happen if they finally admit it was a mistake from their side,” said Kiprop.

Dressed in a green Nike polo T-shirt, pair of jeans and sneakers and juggling a bunch of keys in his hands, Kiprop leaned on his chair and said: “I have lost a lot. The name and reputation I have built since 2007 means nothing to me today. There is not legacy that can come after this. It is quite heartbreaking.”

However, he observed that a doper deserves such an experience but anyone who is clean does not. He insists that his case is either a conspiracy or an error in the sample collection, testing process. “Once an error like this happens, it really demoralises someone. It is a double tragedy,” added Kiprop. “Sometimes, I feel depressed. I don’t belong to the doping community, but I am not running. The clean athletes doubt me and the dopers, since they are not genuine but cheats, think I am one of them. I usually find myself in the middle of nowhere,” he revealed. “I have been fighting doping since I lost to Rashid Ramzi at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a title I later got after he was found guilty. It was my first ever Olympic experience, at just 19, and would have wanted to win and receive my medal at the podium.”

He observes that things had even taken a terrible turn after his employer, National Police Service, revoked his exceptions from official duty and deployed him to Ruiru.

But he is glad to have resumed training. “I am now training. I follow a daily programme but the morale is not yet there. However, I have to keep fit to allow me regain my motivation in case these charges are dropped and I am optimistic they will be,” said Kiprop.

He observes that his family has been his pillar of strength while most of his friends have bolted. “My family, especially my father and mother, have been very supportive, coupled with a few friends — not as many as I had before. My mother is prayerful and have been praying for me all the time.”

“My former coach, Jimmy Beuttah, still believes in me. He tells me if I am certain I did not dope, I should continue training hard to ensure that I am able to come back if my case is dismissed. I do believe this is the person I need in my future career. He believed in me when I was starting and still believes in me now, when I am down,” observed Kiprop, adding the Martin Keino, son to legendary former runner and Nock president Kipchoge has also been of great help.

“We are hopeful I will earn justice. This is about earning justice and not winning a case,” said Kiprop. “Majority of people in the world believe I doped. How do we change that? Those who collect, handle and analyse our samples should be able to tell the world what transpired in order to save my legacy. It is not easy to run consistently for 12 years in back-to-back world championships and being an Olympian three times. If I were not as strong as I am, maybe I would have done something terrible out of depression.”

Kiprop also questions the validity of the claims and puts this into perspective. “Why should I even dope in November and I was to run in May? Why should I need an EPO (Erythropoietin — the substance he is said to have used)? To train? No! I raced at the National Police Championships in January 2018 and did not even finish four kilometres since I was not ready to run. I also ran at the Discovery Cross Country in the same month,” he observed.

He observes that he will be happy to be let off and have a chance to appease his fans once again, those who still fancy a ‘selfie’ with him now and then. “I am very optimistic. Before this, I was considering moving to the 5,000m and replace the likes of Mo Farah, who have moved to the marathons, as I also look forward to the road races and marathons. Remember I started with cross country, which means I was a long distance runner before going to the middle ( 800m and 1500m). With that kind of a background, I know I can hack it in the marathons.”

“This is not before winning another Olympic medal. It is my prayer that I will be able to run the 5,000m at the Tokyo Olympics,” he concluded.

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