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Marathon potentially hit by 'rampant, unchecked' doping, warns Athletics Integrity Unit

Marathon GV

Anti-doping officials are targeting potential "rampant, unchecked" drug-taking among professional marathon runners, according to the head of the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

The scale of the problem is similar to the major doping scandals in cycling and Major League Baseball, the head of the AIU head Brett Clothier said in an interview with Telegraph Sport.

"We did a statistical study that showed that, in 2018, of all the marathon races around the world outside of the six major marathons, something like 70 to 80 per cent of the podium finishers didn't have any out-of-competition test in the nine months leading up to the race," Clothier said.

"There was just no testing. Not only that, but the athletes weren't in a testing pool so they knew no one was going to test them.

"Plus, they were running for big money, especially relative to the country they were from. This was a real recipe for disaster.

Wilson Kipsang is the sixth fastest marathon runner in history, with a personal best of two hours three minutes and 13 seconds
Image: Former men's marathon world-record holder Wilson Kipsang is currently suspended for 'whereabouts failures and tampering'

"It needed to be fixed or else the industry was going to face its own moment, like cycling did in the nineties, or like baseball did (in the noughties). Rampant, unchecked doping."

The AIU, which is the independent successor to World Athletics' in-house anti-doping department, persuaded the six major marathons to increase their funding to it, enabling it to expand its road-running programme.

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It increased the amount of intelligence-gathering resources devoted to the discipline and provided the funds to set up a new blood-testing laboratory in Nairobi.

In January, the AIU had its most high-profile case to date when Wilson Kipsang, the former men's marathon world-record holder, was suspended "for whereabouts failures and tampering".

Kipsang is awaiting his hearing and his management stressed to the Telegraph that he had not failed a drugs test, adding: "No prohibited substance was found."

In a separate story in the paper, Clothier also predicted that there will be more cases involving Olympic hopefuls before the Games in Tokyo this summer.

"More than a third of our cases are World Championship or Olympic medallists or major marathon winners, so based on what has happened in the past, yes, for sure there will be cases before the Olympics that will shock people," he said.

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