Marathon organisers have expressed concerned about the ability to drug test runners from remote locations.
Many of the world’s best marathon competitors come from Kenya and Ethiopia and often live in quite rural places. This can pose a problem for organisers who need to be able to carry out random testing to ensure participants are not taking any banned substances.
According to the Mail on Sunday, sources have claimed that getting athletes who train in remote locations in Africa can be a logistical challenge for those carrying out drug testing. At the moment, there are no World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratories in Africa, making it difficult for blood samples to make it into the hands of testers before they start to deteriorate.
The Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) is a collective organisation responsible for the world’s biggest marathons – London, New York, Berlin, Boston, Tokyo and Chicago. Every year it spends nearly £1 million on random drug testing for elite athletes to try and eliminate cheating.
Elite athletes selected for screening
Any men who have run a marathon in less than two hours and 11 minutes could potentially be asked to provide a sample of blood for testing. Female athletes must have run the 26-mile in less than two to be selected for testing.
Nick Bitel, the CEO of the London Marathon, said drug testing was important to protect the integrity of the race.
He told the Mail on Sunday: “It is important fans can believe what they see.”
Earlier this month, Kenyan runner Jemima Sumgong, who won last year’s London Marathon as well as a gold medal at the Rio Olympics, failed a random drugs test. She tested positive for EPO – a hormone which boosts the blood’s ability to create red blood cells – which resulted in her being banned from this year’s London Marathon.
Introducing random testing can also be a valuable deterrent for staff and can lead to reduced absence rates and increased productivity.