Jemima Sumgong, the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold in the marathon when she triumphed in Rio last year, has failed an out-of-competition dope test, athletics officials said Friday. The 32-year-old, who is also the reigning London Marathon champion, tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO in a test by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in her native Kenya. Sumgong starred at the London Marathon last year, defying the odds to win despite suffering a bruising fall. Steeled by her success in London, she then became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic marathon gold, defeating Ethiopia's world champion Mare Dibaba in Rio to confirm her status as the world's top marathon runner of 2016. Before claims of a positive drugs test emerged, Sumgong vowed to defend her London title on April 23.
But Tim Hadzima, general manager at Abbott World Marathon Majors, organiser of the world's largest marathons including London, said the organisation was "distressed" by the reports, adding: "if true, they indicate that we are gaining ground in our long-standing fight against doping".
At the Rio Olympics, Sumgong defied temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius (82F) to claim an historic gold medal in a race that finished at the city's famed Sambodromo.
"I was never worried that I'd lose," said Sumgong, who added that victory made up for a disappointing showing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "At the 40 kilometre mark I knew the gold was mine."
Earlier this year, Sumgong was one of a number of top Kenyan athletes who welcomed a new initiative to eradicate doping, which has tarnished their image, agreeing to be monitored by doctors appointed by the IAAF and Athletics Kenya.
"It will be easy for us now to communicate with these doctors before we take any medicine when the need arises," said Sumgong.
The move came after an investigation by German television channel ARD and Britain's Sunday Times newspaper last July alleging that doping was rife at the elite training center in Iten.