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Asbel Kiprop tipped off about drug test

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Asbel Kiprop was wrongly given advance warning of a drug test that he failed, but there was no sample tampering and the Kenyan runner was not offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt by the Athletics Integrity Unit, the sport’s doping watchdog said Friday.

Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m gold medalist and three-time world champion, said Thursday he was the victim of extortion and denied doping but confirmed he tested positive for EPO on Nov. 27. The Athletics Integrity Unit did not comment on the extortion claim in a Friday press release.

“I remain perplexed on how my innocent sample could turn positive on the only time when money was extorted from me,” was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page and confirmed by Kiprop’s agent and lawyer in an email as being the Kenyan’s words. “It is not beyond my suspicion that my sample turned positive because I might have remitted less money than I was expected to remit.

“I have been asked to admit that I doped so that I would be made an ambassador of I.A.A.F [track and field’s international governing body] on anti-doping. I have refused, as this is not only untrue but also a fraud. I do not need absolution on the allegations.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied some of Kiprop’s claims of impropriety but confirmed one of them: that Kiprop was given advance notice of a drug test that was supposed to be a surprise.

“This is extremely disappointing,” the Athletics Integrity Unit said Friday. “The advanced notice of testing given by the doping control assistant could not reasonably have caused EPO to be present in Mr. Kiprop’s sample and, as such, the departure does not invalidate the adverse analytical finding. This will ultimately be a matter for the tribunal to determine.”

Kiprop was informed he failed the tests on Feb. 3 and Feb. 20 (A and B samples) and charged with violations March 16, but the case has not been resolved by a disciplinary tribunal.

“I pray to be given the benefit of doubt even as I am cast into this lonely isolation,” said Kiprop, who has no other publicly announced failed drug tests in a decade of elite racing. “I know it may be impossible to defend myself from any accuser who has made up his mind and who would view my protestations as a mere denial.”

Kiprop, 28, has been the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade. At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

“So many emotions running thru me regarding the Kiprop news,” was posted on Centrowitz’s Instagram story Wednesday. “So much I wanna say. Best I collect my thoughts/emotions on this flight & speak on it later.”

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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