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Olympic champion steeplechaser gets four-year ban for doping

Ruth Jebet is the reigning Olympic champion and second-fastest steeplechaser of all time

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced today that Olympic steeplechase champion and former world record-holder Ruth Jebet has been banned from competition for four years. Jebet, who was born in Kenya but competes for Bahrain, tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition urine test from December 2017.

After the test registered as positive for EPO, the AIU was in contact with Jebet for several months. Jebet was provisionally suspended in February 2018, but given the opportunity to provide an explanation for the positive test and provide a “B Sample” to be analyzed. Jebet sent a response to the AIU regarding the charges.

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“I [am] 21 years old and I don’t know about all these medicines and supplements,” she wrote. She explained that she had received tablets and injections for “therapeutic use” and “regeneration,” but she said she didn’t know they were prohibited.

The AIU said that Jebet will lose all of her results between December 1, 2017 (the date of the positive test) and February 4, 2018 (her suspension). This will not affect her much, seeing as she only ran a 10K race in Kenya in December 2017 and a 3,000m indoor event in the Czech Republic in January 2018, placing fifth in both. She will have to pay back prize money she won at these events.

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Jebet won the women’s steeplechase event in Rio by over seven seconds ahead of Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and Emma Coburn of the U.S. Later that summer, she ran 8:52.78 in Paris to set the world record at the time (it has since been lowered to 8:44.32 by Beatrice Chepkoech in 2018).

Ruth Jebet wins gold in the 3,000m steeplechase in Rio. Photo: @Olympics

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In the country’s history, Bahrain has won four Olympic medals: Jebet’s gold from Rio, a silver medal won by Eunice Kirwa in the marathon (also in Rio), and two more golds, both in 1,500m, one by Maryam Yusuf Jamal at London 2012 and the other by Rashid Ramzi at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Like Jebet, both Kirwa and Ramzi also tested positive for EPO (Ramzi had his medal stripped), meaning that, after today’s decision by the AIU, three-quarters of the country’s Olympic medallists have been banned due to anti-doping violations.