Russian athletes, state accused of obstructing drug tests

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The World Anti-Doping Agency alleged Wednesday that Russian athletes and government agencies continued to obstruct and deceive drug testers, even as Russia tries to regain its place in Olympic track and field.

In a report published two days before a key vote on whether to readmit Russia’s track team for the Rio Olympics, WADA said testers have been intimidated by officials from Russia’s FSB security service and that packages containing samples have been tampered with by Russian customs services.

Athletes have repeatedly provided false information about their whereabouts and evaded drug testers at competitions, WADA said. In one case, an unnamed athlete in track and field attempted to give a fake urine sample using “a container inserted inside her body” but was discovered and tested positive when her real urine was examined.

WADA also says it received reports that athletes were “freely visiting” a “laboratory … with centrifuge and other analytical equipment” during a Russian national wrestling championship. WADA last year claimed secret laboratories could have been used in Russia to screen doped athletes who would fail independent tests, so they could then be kept away from drug testers and avoid bans.

Seven months on from a damning WADA commission report which alleged widespread state-sponsored doping in track and field, the Russian government has admitted failings by its athletes and sports officials, but continues to strenuously deny there has been any state backing for dopers.

The latest allegations relate to the period since the Russian anti-doping agency was suspended in November over accusations it covered up drug use. Since then testing in Russia has been led by foreign authorities, with Britain’s UK Anti-Doping taking the lead.

Wednesday’s WADA report says doping control officers were “intimidated” when trying to find athletes who said they were in so-called closed cities hosting military facilities, and alleges “armed FSB agents threatening DCOs with expulsion from the country.”

When samples were sent abroad for testing, laboratories said the packages had been tampered with by Russian customs officers, WADA said. In such cases, “sample bottles (are) often not with corresponding chain of custody form,” WADA said. That could potentially cause a case to collapse if an athlete convinces a tribunal that samples were mishandled.

Athletes also appear to be dodging tests by withdrawing from competitions at short notice when drug testers are present. In one case an athlete ran away from testers at a competition, and another “exited the stadium” during her own race, WADA said. At a competition in race walking, where top Russians have repeatedly failed drug tests, 15 athletes “did not start, withdrew or were disqualified,” including Olympic medalists.

While UK Anti-Doping has conducted 455 tests since it started work in Russia in February, samples could not be collected in 73 cases for reasons including “athlete not available,” WADA said.

WADA said in May that the number of tests conducted in Russia over the preceding six months had fallen by more than half against the same period a year earlier, when the Russian agency was still controlling the tests. UKAD has significantly less testing capacity than the Russian agency did because of a limited number of staff and delays to payments from the Russian authorities.

Earlier Wednesday, Russia ramped up its campaign Wednesday for its track and field team to be allowed to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, contending it had met the conditions for reinstatement and saying it would be “obvious discrimination” to exclude athletes who have been not linked to doping.

Two days before the IAAF decides whether to maintain or lift its ban on Russia’s track federation, a group of Russian athletes sent an open letter to IOC President Thomas Bach and a top Russian Olympic official issued a four-page statement appealing for the country’s “clean” athletes to be cleared to compete at the Rio Games.

A blanket ban on all of Russia’s track and field athletes would be unjust to those who have never been implicated in doping and have passed a certain number of tests, the Russians argued.’

The IAAF council meets Friday in Vienna to decide whether to uphold the ban or allow the Russians to compete in Rio.

The International Olympic Committee has scheduled a summit of sports leaders next Tuesday to consider Russia’s eligibility.

Separately, Gennady Alyoshin, the Russian Olympic Committee’s point man for reforms at the Russian track federation, said Russia had met most of the 44 criteria set by the IAAF to be eligible for reinstatement, including changes in the federation, sanctions against dopers and change in the environment.

Meanwhile, the athletes’ commission of the European Olympic Committees issued a statement Wednesday urging the IOC to keep drug cheats out of the games but suggesting that athletes who can show they are clean should be allowed to compete.

“We urge the IOC to take the strongest practicable action to defend clean athletes and ensure honest competition at the Olympic Games,” the statement said.

The European body said athletes deemed “at risk” would have to show they are clean through an “international and independently proven” record of drug tests.

MORE: Russia shot put medalist failed retest, Canadian medalist husband says

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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