Five things we know about out of competition testing in Marathons


Out of competition testing is the most effective way to catch doping cheaters, and is a great deterent as well. And remember, blood testing in out of competition situations is different than athlete blood passports, where one looks at changes over a longer period of time. Both out of competition and athlete passports are very effective. They also take money, lots of it.

The testing apparently happened in February for Jemima Sumgong. The protocal is that the IAAF then notifies the Federation, which notifies the athlete and the manager. Many times, if the Federation is reluctant or just plain lazy, this can take months. Apparently, the Federation reacted much faster this time.

Then, Reuters heard about it and all hell broke loose.

Sumgong_JemimaH-RAK17.jpgJemima Sumgong, photo by

The problem in Kenya is like the problem in several other countries. Without effective testing, and support from the government, national federation and Olympic federation, drug testing will not be conducted at a high enough level for testing to be effective. Without a protocal of out of competition testing, cheaters do get through the cracks, and the rumors about cheaters become the only thing some speak about. This is not good for our sport or any sport.

Hence, the IAAF, with the financial support of Abbott WMM, has been conducting testing for the past couple of years (I am trying to get an exact time frame). World Marathon Majors was doing their own blood testing before that. Abbott WMM and the IAAF understand that out of competition testing is the only way to nail doping. And don't be naive about the whole surprise response from some. When cheating is organized, few know about it.

Truth is this. I do not believe that Kenyan athletes need to cheat. They are that hard working and that talented. Doping is supposed to take the guess work out of training and racing, making you so superior that no one can beat you.

No one is that good.

If out of competition is well supported, it will be highly effective. With the banning of Rita Jeptoo for 4 years and now, the positive test of Jemima Sumgong, it is already most effective.

1. London Marathon was the first Major Marathon to require blood testing for its elite marathoners. That started in 2000. That line in the sand was developed by then London race director David Bedford and has been supported by Nick Bitel, Chair of London Marathon Trust and Hugh Brasher, current London Marathon race director.

2. The World Marathon Majors embraced blood testing as a group meaning that elite marathoners who contract with a WMM race are blood tested and are getting out of competition testing. The WMM was the first group to affect blood testing for a series of events in the sport.

3. Out of competition testing is quite effective. It is also very expensive, hence the concern about increasing such testing around the globe. It requires lots of cash and most of the drug testing groups are literally doing proverbial bake sales to raise money to continue effective testing.

4. Abbott World Marathon Majors increased their support and are supporting IAAF out of competition testing. Rita Jeptoo AND Jemima Sumgong were both caught in out of competiiton testing conducted by the IAAF. This is real secret agent man stuff. The IAAF gets a list of the invited athletes at all WMM, and quickly gets them involved in out of competition, no warning testing, which is highly effective.

5. Abbott WMM, London, Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo and the IAAF are playing well together on drug testing. While is absolute horse shit that Jemima Sumgong tests positive, it shows that, at least in the marathon world, sponsors, marathons and the IAAF are working to clean up the sport. When you pop an Olympic gold medalist, come on, how much higher of an athlete can you bust?

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