AthleticsOn Athletics

Kenyan doping charges now running at a world record pace

Kipruto merely the latest offender but meanwhile, in football, of the 2,846 tests carried out at the Qatar World Cup, not a single one came back positive

It was sometime during coffee break number two or number three on Wednesday morning when the email landed alerting us to another Kenyan runner who had been done for doping.

This time Rhonex Kipruto, a random name to some, better known to others. Actually, Kipruto was named right here only last month, when pointing out how Jake O’Regan had won the Great Ireland 10km Run in the Phoenix Park in 26 minutes and eight seconds, bettering the world record of 26:42 which Kipruto ran in 2020.

Except O’Regan had only run around 8.5km, the 2,000 runners in that race sent the wrong way and unwittingly finishing well short. Turns out Kipruto may have been taking a sort of short cut too, the Athlete Integrity Unit (AIU), the independent anti-doping body of world athletics, announcing his suspension on Wednesday after identifying biological passport irregularities.

At the time something about Kipruto’s world record – which came four months after he won 10,000m bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Doha – looked too good to be true. Which in this sport, more often than not, means it probably is.


Kipruto is trained by celebrated Irish coach Brother Colm O’Connell, the now 23-year-old runner joining his St Patrick’s High School training camp in Iten as a 15-year-old. Both runner and coach have strongly denied the charge, O’Connell saying “our strategy is to train hard, and that’s the only way we achieve results”.

Kipruto may be the first runner associated with O’Connell to be suspended, but he joins the list of Kenyan doping charges now running at a world record pace of its own. Last year, there were 25 reported AIU cases in Kenya, the overall number currently suspended (named or otherwise) running close to 100.

According to the AIU, Kipruto is charged with “Use of a Prohibited Substance/Method”, due to his suspicious blood readings, the biological passport not identifying any banned substance per se, only evidence something is being manipulated. The bar is set high; the AIU need to be very sure before they proceed, and they invariably are.

Last November World Athletics decided against imposing an outright ban on Kenya, despite this spate of doping offences. The plan instead is to ramp up the testing and hope the message eventually gets across.

Later on Wednesday the conversation turned to doping once again, only this time in the financial sense, after Manchester City put four goals past Real Madrid and set up, it seems, their long-awaited European coronation.

They still must win the thing, but if the Champions League title complements a fifth Premier League title in six seasons, and a possible treble by claiming the FA Cup, it’s all clear evidence that now more than ever money doesn’t just talk – it swears.

That’s assuming City’s charges of financial doping over the last decade or so don’t extend beyond financial sanctions. This could have been their first Champions League campaign in two years, had the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) not overturned Uefa’s punishment in 2020, after ruling City had committed “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play regulations between 2012 and 2016.

In delivering that ruling, Cas said City did “fail to co-operate with Uefa authorities” but overturned the decision by Uefa’s club financial control body (CFCB) to ban them, also reducing City’s fine from €30 million to €10m.

There are also those outstanding Premier League charges, announced in February, all 115 of them related to City’s breaching of Financial Fair Play regulations over the course of nine seasons, starting from the 2009/10 campaign up to 2017/18.

City’s lawyers may ultimately ensure those charges don’t result in the deduction of any points, or indeed titles.

Meanwhile, there is rarely any real conversation around doping in football. According to Fifa’s latest anti-doping report, published earlier this year and covering the period from July 1st 2021, to December 31st 2022, including the World Cup in Qatar, 5,596 samples were collected from a total of 2,921 doping controls, in 11 different competitions, from more than 100 member associations.

From these 5,596 samples, only six resulted in an adverse analytical finding. Yes, only six, including Djiboutian player Sabri Ali Mohamed, Ivorian player Sylvain Gbohouo, Honduran player Wisdom Niayitey Quaye, and Costa Rican player Orlando Moisés Galo Calderón, all during qualifying tournaments.

In four of these six cases, the outcome led to a suspension. During the Qatar World Cup itself, 2,846 tests were carried out by Fifa, and every single one of those came back negative.

Just like in Russia 2018, and Brazil in 2014. This was despite a study in 2015 commissioned by Uefa that found tests on some 900 top players, between 2008 and 2013, showed 7.7 per cent had elevated levels of testosterone, which often marks the use of banned substance.

It means the last player to fail a doping test during the World Cup remains Diego Maradona, in USA in 1994, his sample showing up five different variants of the stimulant ephedrine.

City at least have widened the conversation around financial doping which isn’t going away. Fifa can look to their anti-doping report and say there is nothing to talk about, even if that looks a little too good to be true.