Disgraced drug cheat Rita Jeptoo spoke for the first time on Thursday on her failed test for Erythropoietin (EPO), exonerating her former coach and accusing an unknown doctor of injecting her with the banned substance.
Jeptoo the former Boston and Chicago said she decided to break her silence not only to clear coach Claudio Barardelli but also warn athletes to be vigilant against rogue doctors in the area.
Barardelli has since parted ways with Rosa Associati the training camp where Jeptoo was based.
“It was not my coach (Barradelli) since he respected me because I was his best athlete. He received the message with shock since I was a senior runner who also advised young talents in the camp not to use drugs,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks.
She silently watched a clip of her last race in Chicago, struggling for words to describe her fall from grace after her positive test last October, that landed her a two-year ban.
“The pain is real. I tested positive after I had harvested my fruits of labor unexpectedly causing confusion. I didn’t know I had doped since I had talent since childhood. I had never known of EPO but I heard it from other countries not here. If the doctor who did this had told me that that was EPO, I could have stopped him,” she claimed.
Her physique has changed, fattened by the sedentary past year. She has piled on the kilos weighing 46kg up from 39kg.
“Life has never been the same since the story broke out in the media in Kenya and the rest of the world. I was looked upon as a person who wanted to destroy Kenyan athletes,” said Jeptoo at her residence at the posh Elgonview Estate in Eldoret.
Doping in Kenya is not like in Russia
Jeptoo said it wrong for anyone to equate Kenya’s problems to Russia’s doping scandal, very much aware that the country is under scrutiny from the IAAF and WADA following reports aired by German ARD and published British Sunday Times that there was widespread doping in Kenya.
Russia has been suspended from track and field competition and on Wednesday, WADA listed them in the non-compliant list.
“You can’t compare Russia with Kenya. Kenya is a multi-talented country in athletics. When Russia is suspended, Kenya should not be. We as athletes, we are respected outside Kenya. World Anti-doping Agency should stop blackmailing Kenyans, instead, they should go for individuals or culprits and stop threats,” she said.
She maintains that she was a victim of a rogue system. She claimed that weeks before Chicago marathon, she was involved in an accident and visited various clinics and hospitals and was treated by different doctors mainly in Kapsabet, Nandi county.
“Since I visited several doctors, I don’t know who exactly administered EPO to me.I was accompanied by various athletes at various hospitals and treated like any other patient since I was losing too much blood. The accident occurred while I was preparing for Chicago. I considered withdrawing as I only had two weeks remaining to the race,” she stated as warned fellow runners to be wary of doctors when visiting hospitals.
Crack down on fake doctors
“Drugs are serious and destroying athletes and the whole world is watching. Kenya and Kenyan athletes should not be banned. I want total investigations done to reveal and arrest fake doctors operating in the country illegally,” said Jeptoo.
The mother of one says she was hurt by the accusations that she may have willingly doped.
“Prayers have been helping me a lot and God helps me in such challenges that anybody else can go through. Many said I should be banned for four years,” she said wiping a tear from her cheek.
The 34-year-old plans to bounce back even stronger and race faster when her ban ends, somewhat relieved that there is no life time bans for cheats, which has been widely advocated for within sports fraternity and also by National Olympics Committee of Kenya chairman Dr Kipchoge Keino.
“Today, I feel like running again. I love running and on my return, I want to do better than what I was doing in the past.”