Rhonex Kipruto, 10K world record holder, suspended on doping allegations

Rhonex Kipruto, 10K world record holder, suspended on doping allegations

On Wednesday, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced the provisional suspension of 10K world record holder Rhonex Kipruto of Kenya. The 23-year-old was charged with the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method related to his Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

Kipruto is the fastest man in history over 10 kilometers, clocking 26:24 on the roads at the Valencia 10K in January 2020. He is also the third-fastest half-marathoner in history, with a personal best of 57:49. Kipruto earned a major championship medal at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha in the 10,000m, finishing third behind Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei and Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha.

Kipruto has been informed by the AIU of alleged inconsistencies in his ABP blood values, dating back to 2018. The AIU has not directly accused him of using prohibited substances, but he is provisionally suspended and asked to provide an explanation.

What is an ABP suspension?

The purpose of an Athlete Biological Passport is to track their blood values ​​over a long period to monitor for possible signs of doping, even if they never fail a drug test.

The AIU will analyze an athlete’s ABP data to monitor specific biological parameters over time that may indirectly reveal the effects of doping. This approach allows the AIU to generate profiles for each athlete and to look for any fluctuations that may indicate that the athlete has been using performance-enhancing drugs.

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The profile for each athlete is generated based on statistics that utilize data from previous (given) samples to predict the individual’s performance limits or range for future samples. According to the AIU, if any data from a test sample falls outside of the athlete’s range, it could be an indication of doping.

In Kipruto’s case, he has received a provisional suspension while the AIU investigates further and schedules a hearing, meaning he is unable to compete or train with his training group until the case is closed. If Kipruto is found guilty at the hearing, he could face a four-year suspension, or more.

Kipruto denies the charges

Kipruto’s agency, Ikaika Sports, released a 4,000-word press release acknowledging the provisional suspension and denying the charges. “I don’t cheat or dope!” said Kipruto after the announcement. “The truth is on my side. This is all I can say.”

His agency included expert opinions suggesting that there may be other factors, such as training load, health status, hydration, travel and alcohol consumption, that could explain Kipruto’s ABP values.

Rhonex Kipruto
Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto leading the 10,000m at the 2019 World Athletics Championships, Doha, Qatar. Photo: Kevin Morris

Kipruto is coached by the famous Irish athletics coach Colm O’Connell, who is nicknamed the “Godfather of Kenyan running”. O’Connell has coached the likes of two-time Olympic 800m champion and world record holder David Rudisha and two-time Boston Marathon champion Edna Kiplagat. According to the press release, O’Connell has not had a single doping case in his 50-year coaching career.

His agency expresses concerns about the presumption of guilt and the lack of transparency in the ABP process, emphasizing Kipruto’s clean record, regular testing and willingness to undergo further study to clear his name.

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