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Kenyan distance running star Asbel Kiprop denies the claims he tested positive for EPO.

Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, a three-time world champion at 1,500 meters and the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, has reportedly tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test that was taken in late 2017. Kiprop has denied the allegations.

The news was first reported by Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail.

“I have read the reports linking me to doping,” Kiprop said, according to The Guardian. “As an athlete, I have been at the forefront of the fight against doping in Kenya, a fight I strongly believe in and support. I would not want to ruin all what I have worked for since my first international race in 2007. I hope I can prove that I am a clean athlete in every way possible.”

Rumors swirled on Tuesday night out of Kenya that a prominent runner had tested positive for a banned substance but it was not revealed who the runner was. The Athletics Integrity Unity processes the doping tests in track and field but did not confirm any positive test or result. 

In a statement issued through his lawyer Kigen Katwa on Thursday morning, Kiprop says he was told by an anti-doping officer named Simon Karugu on Nov. 26 to be available for a doping test the following day and disclosed his whereabouts in Iten. Kiprop says he was taking flu medication when the sample was being taken. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency rules, he was not supposed to be given notice of an intended visit by testers. Kiprop says that he was notified of the positive test on Feb. 3. 

“If I had wanted to dope then it would be less than clever to dope 7 months (in November 2017) long before my planned competition [in May 2018], when I would need the boost,” Kiprop’s statement says. “Further if I had any dope substance in my system then I would not make myself available for the sampling on 27th November 2017 having been given notice on 26th November 2017 of the intended visit for the sample collection. I could choose to miss the collection without any consequences. Consequences for missing sampling meeting arise only after missing 3 times. I had not missed previously.”

Kiprop notes that he is told EPO is injected into the body and the last time he had an injection was in 2014 as a yellow fever vaccination before heading to the Bahamas for a race.

Kiprop goes on to detail that the doping control officers, named in his statement as Paul Scott and Karugi, asked if he could give them some money after collecting the urine sample.

“He did not specify how much they needed,” Kiprop says in his statement. “At 8.11 a.m. I forwarded to them money through Mr. Simon Karugu “Mburu”’s phone using M-Pesa. As a police officer I found it wise to send by M-Pesa for record. I did not at the time expect that the request for the money had anything to do with the sample. At that time I did not see the money as inducement or bribe for anything. I gave it in good faith thinking they may have some need known to them. In retrospect I now clearly see the money as having a relation with the sample collected on that date, and even the irregular advance notice I was given. Mr. Simon Karugu “Mburu” acknowledged verbally and audibly receiving the M-pesa money while he was seated next to Mr. Paul Scott.”

Kiprop says that Scott and Karugu were left with the urine sample while Kiprop looked for cash in his bedroom and says he does not know if his sample was interfered with. Kiprop says that he is unsure whether the amount of money that he passed along to the testers was less than what was expected from him and that if it led to the contamination of the sample.

‘I have been asked to admit that I doped so that I would be made an ambassador of I.A.A.F on anti-doping,” Kiprop says in his statement. “I have refused, as this is not only untrue but also a fraud. I do not need absolution on the allegations.”

Kiprop, 28, is the third-fastest man over 1,500 meters in history. He holds a personal best of 3:26.69 from 2015, which ranks third behind world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:26.00 and Bernard Lagat’s 3:26.34.

At just 19 years old, Kiprop finished second in the 1,500m final at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing but was beaten by Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain. Kiprop was upgraded to gold after Ramzi tested positive for CERA, a form of EPO.

Kiprop went on to win gold in the 1,500 meters at the 2011, 2013 and 2015 World Championships. He has not competed in 2018. He initially planned on competing at the Doha Diamond League Meet on May 4.

Federico Rosa has served as Kiprop’s agent since 2008. Rosa told the Daily Mail and The Guardian that he heard of the rumors of Kiprop’s positive test but could not add any additional information. Several of Rosa’s athletes have tested positive for banned substances including 2016 Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong, former Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo and marathoner Mathew Kipsorio. Rosa was arrested and briefly jailed in July 2016 before he was charged with abetting Jeptoo with doping. Rosa denied any involvement and before the trial was set to begin, charges were withdrawn. 

“I have worked with Federico Rosa since 2008,” Kiprop said in a 2016 statement. “I will work with Rosa to my retirement. I will stand out for the truth,”

More than 40 Kenyan runners have tested positive for doping since the 2012 Olympics. Kenya was deemed “non compliant” by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2015 but managed to be re-instated before the start of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.