Rita Jeptoo's agent speaks on his athlete's failed drug test and discusses the depth of Kenya's doping problem.
Last Friday, news broke that Kenyan marathon ace Rita Jeptoo, winner of the last two Boston and Chicago marathons, tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition test in late September, just weeks before winning for the second straight year in the Windy City.
In the days that followed, it was reported that the banned substance in question was Erythropoietin, or EPO, the same blood-boosting drug that cast a dark shadow over cycling in recent years. Following the announcement, Jeptoo's Italian agent, Federico Rosa, and her coach, Claudio Berardelli, vehemently denied having anything to do with her failed test and said they were cooperating with anti-doping officials investigating the case. Berardelli works for Rosa's company, Rosa and Associates, and directs a number of training camps in Kenya's Rift Valley. Rosa's father, Dr. Gabriele Rosa, is known as one of the greatest marathon coaches in history, having coached numerous Olympic medalists and big city marathon champions, mostly from Kenya.
Despite his insistence that he had no knowledge of or involvement with Jeptoo's performance-enhancing drug use, Federico Rosa's reputation has been surrounded by a cloud of controversy in recent years. In 2012, another of his athletes, Mathew Kisorio tested positive for EPO [Kisorio has stated that neither Rosa nor Berardelli has anything to do with his failed drug test], and Jemima Sumgong, Jeptoo's training partner who was second at Sunday's New York City Marathon, failed a drug test following the Boston Marathon in 2012 for prednisolone and was given a two-year ban by Athletics Kenya. That decision was later reversed, as the localized injection for bursitis was permissible under IAAF anti-doping rules.
On Tuesday, Jeptoo met with Athletics Kenya in Nairobi, but she did not speak with reporters. The Daily Nation reported that Jeptoo wants her "B" sample tested so that she can clear her name. But Rosa, in an exclusive sit-down interview with Competitor.com on Sunday night in New York City, sang a different tune, saying, "I didn't think there was any mistake because that's a very, very, very, delicate situation and I don't trust much in mistakes on finding substance. When there's a mistake, the 'A' sample is slightly different from the 'B' sample and it cannot be said it's positive. I don't remember there [ever] being a mistake, especially when they told me it was EPO."
Following Sumgong's second-place finish in New York on Sunday, Federico Rosa, who is a doctor by trade but no longer practices medicine, spoke about Jeptoo's positive test, his history as an athletics manager, the depth of the doping problem in Kenya and what can be done to help reverse it.
I want to start with your relationship with Rita Jeptoo. How long have you represented her as her agent?
About three years ... if I'm not wrong ... when she came to us.
And when she came to you, was that when she was coming back from pregnancy?
Yes, pregnancy and then an injury. I actually don't remember if she ran something before the previous year or was always coming back. I had to rebuild because I'm sure she ran, I think Frankfurt (in 2011) when she made the good, decent comeback to 2:26. And then she was second in Chicago (in 2012) and then the next year, so yeah, it's three years.
And how old was she when you started representing her?
Three years ago, she was 29 or 30.