- The 2008 Olympics 1,500m champion who is now serving a four-year ban is out to get to the bottom of his doping saga to leave a legacy in athletics and to expose ‘corrupt athletics systems.’ He will be eligible to compete again in February
His name Asbel means determined.
And determination is the driving force behind three-time World 1,500 metres champion Asbel Kiprop in his quest to unravel the truth behind his doping saga.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games 1,500m champion, who is now serving a four-year ban for a doping offence, believes getting to the bottom of the saga will enable him to leave a legacy in athletics, one that will not only expose what he terms “corrupt athletics systems” but will also enable him to defend the game and clean athletes.
After clearing his name, former African Games and Africa 1,500m champion Kiprop, hopes to compete for Kenya again, perhaps at the 2022 World Championships in Oregon, or just for a short season.
Kiprop, 30, was provisionally suspended on May 2, 2018 after he tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substance Erythropoietin (EPO) in an out-of-competition test in November 2017.
Kiprop, the 2007 World Under-20 Cross Country champion, maintained his innocence but he was eventually found guilty of using EPO and was handed a four-year doping ban in April last year.
BACK IN TRAINING
Kiprop will be eligible to compete by February 2022.
“I strongly believe there was an error somewhere that World Athletics and Athletes Integrity Unit (AIU) must really still look at and rectify. I won’t even be looking at compensation but to clear my name,” Kiprop told Grace Msalame in an NTV lifestyle show ‘Unscripted.’
“Even if I finish the ban, I will not relent in my quest to find the truth. I will not allow the truth to die even if it will take me a decade or more. I will fight to clear my name. I also don’t want to go down on record as being the person who ruined Kenya’s rich athletics heritage,” said Kiprop, who said that he is back in training read to make a return to athletics, his beloved sport.
Kiprop, who has hinted at hiring a European lawyer who is also a known scientist to pursue his case to the end, said he would like to hang his spikes honourably.
“I never planned to end my athletics career this way, and that is why I am so determined,” said Kiprop, who is now based at Police Training College, Kiganjo. “I know it will be hard for me to return strongly to the level where I was, but I have a point to prove since I still have the energy to run.”
Kiprop said he didn’t have enough money to appeal his four-year ban through his former lawyer Katwa Kigen.
“By the time I was ready to appeal my ban, AIU told me I was time-barred and that is why I believe there is hope with my new scientist lawyer,” the lanky athlete said.
But who would have loved to bring Kiprop down and end his illustrious athletics career?
Kiprop believes that from the way AIU handled his case, he is the victim of a complicated web. He believes someone wanted to fix him after he had defended his Rosa and Associati management from doping allegations back in 2014.
At the time, the founder of the athletics management camp, Gabriela Rosa, were arrested together with his son Federico following rampant doping cases in their management camp.
“I think AIU saw me as a stumbling block to what they wanted to achieve and someone wanted to find a way to bring me down," claimed Kiprop in the interview aired on NTV Saturday night.
Kiprop said had he been guilty of doping as charged, he would have failed to avail himself for testing after he was forewarned by the officers from AIU about the impeding tests.
“How could I have been so foolish to avail myself? Mark you, I had not missed any doping test,” posed Kiprop.
On the countdown to 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Kiprop said he was part of an intense anti-doping campaign in which he advocated for stiffer punishment for dopers.
“I wanted the two-year ban for doping increased to four besides advocating for doping to be criminalised,” he said.
Kiprop said there is no way he could have cheated having had over 136 doping tests and after having suffered at the hands for a doping cheat back in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Three years and four months after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kiprop was elevated to an Olympic champion at a brief ceremony at the Nairobi Intercontinental Hotel.
This was after Kiprop had finished second in men’s 1,500m final at the 2008 Olympics at the “Bird’s Nest” Stadium in Beijing behind Rashid Ramzi, a naturalised Bahraini who is originally from Morocco but was banned for using banned blood-booster Cera.
New Zealand’s Nicholas Willis was promoted to the silver medal position while France’s Mehdi Baala took the bronze following Ramzi’s disqualification.
“I never thought I would be in Ramzi’s shoes after being falsely accused. I value my natural talent,” said Kiprop, who said he had been greatly inspired by his performance in Beijing.
Kiprop said he didn’t want to disappoint several people, including his father and mentor David Kebenei, Martin Keino who discovered his athletics talent during the trials for the 2006 World Under-20 Championships as well as renowned coach Colm O'Connell, who polished the runner’s skills in Iten.
Kebenei was also an athlete. He represented Kenya at the 1987 African Games in Nairobi and finished fourth in the 1,500m race.
“I want to hand over the baton my father gave me to my kids and make it a generational thing,” said Kiprop.
RUINED HIS LIFE
Kiprop explained that doping accusations have ruined his life including his marriage to his wife Sammary, something he says left him frustrated, driving him to alcoholism.
“My athletics career and reputation was at stake and I was considering venturing into coaching,” Kiprop said. “I wasn’t myself and I ended up doing crazy and abnormal things. My wife didn’t know where I had been after I had been accused of doping. I avoided going to the house because I was trying to figure out the truth but in vain.”
Kiprop said all his friends abandoned him at his hour of need, with the biggest backlash coming from his fellow athletes whom he has assisted financially and even mentored.
“To be honest, the people who dope need to be shamed and embarrassed but it was a double challenge for me since I was innocent,” explained Kiprop.
“All the people I had housed left me and my rivals openly ridiculed me saying they just realised I had been beating them in races through doping. There was lack of trust and it can get worse when it comes from people who are closer,” said Kiprop, adding that only people who came through for him were his parents and his boss, Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai.
“My parents and IG saved me from total collapse and I am grateful to them. I am also lucky to have got another wife who is kind and understanding,” said Kiprop.
Kiprop said it has taken patience to survive the period. He says he drove inspiration from former South African President Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in jail before becoming president.
“Whenever you are hit by such storms, there is need to persevere and to stand on your feet for the truth, no matter what," said Kiprop.
“A farmer doesn’t fail to plant for the next season just because locusts have ravaged his crops in the current season,” he said.
‘Unscripted’ with Grace Msalame aired on NTV Saturday night, but you can watch a re-run on NTV’s channel on YouTube