What you need to know:
- Manangoi seemed to feel that since no banned substances were found in his body this was no big deal.
- He released a personal statement reading thus: “It was my mistake. I have received the verdict from AIU and as I sit here, I have acknowledged that I made a mistake on my whereabouts failures and I have accepted their decisions, though it will be difficult to forgive myself.
Over the last two years some 59 Kenyan athletes have been banned for various anti-doping rule violations.
Most of these elite athletes have been punished for testing positive for prohibited substances, be they performance enhancing or masking agents.
A smaller percentage was suspended for other violations chiefly whereabouts failure or failure to submit a sample.
Being found with a banned substance in your body is a pretty much straight forward case. Many quietly disappear aware they have been caught with their pants down while others hold on to their belts loudly proclaiming their innocence.
But I am more interested in those evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection and whereabouts failures, and their reaction when they are punished.
The latest one was former world 1,500 metres champion Elijah Manangoi, who was recently found guilty of three whereabouts failures by Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) and banned for two years.
Manangoi seemed to feel that since no banned substances were found in his body this was no big deal.
He released a personal statement reading thus: “It was my mistake. I have received the verdict from AIU and as I sit here, I have acknowledged that I made a mistake on my whereabouts failures and I have accepted their decisions, though it will be difficult to forgive myself.
“I’m sorry for disappointing my country, Athletics Kenya, my management, my coach and all whom I have betrayed their trust. I would like to urge my fellow athletes both in Kenya and abroad to seriously take care of their own whereabouts to avoid unnecessary sanctions, it seems simple but a slight mistake can be costly at the end. It’s shameful. I’m a clean athlete and I will be back on track and win right.”
Disgraced marathoner Wilson Kipsang, twice winner of the London Marathon was hit with a four-year ban in July for a series of anti-doping violations including faking evidence in his defence.
Kipsang was punished for four whereabouts failures between April 2018 and May 2019. What made Kipsang’s case particularly tragic was his spirited but comically doomed attempt to prove his innocence.
Three whereabouts failures within 12 months leads to an automatic ban, however Kipsang’s sanction was increased because he was found to have presented “false evidence and witness testimony” to explain his AWOL.
In one of his defence presentation, the former world record holder claimed he had missed a test because of being caught behind an overturned lorry.
But a photograph he produced as evidence was later discovered to have come from an accident that took place more than three months later. In another whereabouts failure, Kipsang claimed a landslide caused by heavy rain had led to him missing another test, yet on that day no such severe weather condition had been recorded.
The AIU observed that Kipsang had engaged in “fraudulent and deceitful conduct”.
Still Kipsang kept on swinging. His management agency, Volare Sports said they were considering appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“Volare Sports and Wilson strongly believe in a clean sport and support anti-doping measures. We emphasise that there is no case of use of doping. No prohibited substance was ever found,” they further stated.
Kipsang and Manangoi did not seem to get it. They could be as clean as a whistle, with no history of doping whatsoever, but failing to be available to submit a sample at a stipulated time is just as serious as being found using a banned substance. Period.
The case of former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is perhaps the best illustration of how grave failing to have a test is.
In December 2003, Ferdinand was banned by Football Association for eight months and fined £50,000 (Sh7,336,156) for missing a drugs test.
On the fateful day, Ferdinand was told by doping officials before training that he was required to provide a sample to test for drugs after the club training session was over.
When training ended Ferdinand left the Manchester United training ground only to remember about half an hour later that he was supposed to have undergone a test. He immediately called his club to ask if he could come back for the test but was told by the testers that it was too late.
Ferdinand was eventually tested two days later and the result came back negative. The club vowed to stand by the defender in his defence of failing to give a sample in the first instance.
The FA insisted they had punished the player for his failure to take the test. It did not matter that the England defender then even offered to have a hair follicle test, which would have given results of any substance use over the past several months.
Mark you, Ferdinand had never previously tested positive for any prohibited substance.
I think the retired footballer did not have any drugs in his system that day. But he had committed a serious anti-doping violation and the wheels of justice had to run their course
Going by his statement, Manangoi clearly knew the seriousness of a whereabouts violation, and perhaps much more.