Dubai: Legendary Ethiopian long distance runner Haile Gebrselassie has called for life bans for drugs cheats following a spate of failed dope tests in his sport.
His comments, made in Dubai, follow the adjournment of Kenyan runner Rita Jeptoo’s hearing in Nairobi last week, as authorities deliberate the length of her ban and which titles she should forfeit after testing positive for performance enhancing drug EPO last September.
A new mandatory four-year ban came into effect on January 1 but because Jeptoo, who won the Boston and Chicago marathons in both 2013 and 2014, failed her test last year, she could be handed a two-year sanction.
Gebrselassie, who will attend the 2015 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday, has called for a life ban. “The problem is the punishment is just not good enough,” the double 10,000-metre Olympic gold medallist told Gulf News on the sidelines of an Adidas promotion at the Mall of the Emirates on Wednesday.
“Athletes think ‘I’ll do two years or four years and I’ll be back’, but it’s not enough — for me it’s better to give them a life ban.”
More than 40 Kenyan athletes have failed doping tests over the past two years, a statistic that saddens Gebrselassie.
“All this talk about doping from the Kenyan side is painful for me,” said the 41-year-old, who won the Dubai Marathon three times in a row from 2008. “I don’t know why they are doing this just for money. In sport, money is not everything, what comes first is the sport itself.
“After you win a race you get money, but without training and hard work you get a lot of problems mentally. The most important thing is to clean up, and the World Anti Doping Agency [Wada] has to work hard.”
Timing of tests
Gebrselassie also called for more stringent and punctual testing to catch cheats ahead of time.
“If someone has stolen the result and after three months you punish them, it doesn’t make sense. The most important thing, which is the victory lap in front of millions of people, is done — you’ve already stolen that feeling.
“The test has to be done immediately, tests have to improve and technology can help.”
He also said society had a part to play in condemning drugs cheats.
“In Ethiopia if someone is caught doping, it’s not just the punishment you have to worry about but the culture. Once they find out you’re guilty, it is better to die.
“If I had this problem, which would be very hard to face my people, it would be better to leave the country.
“This kind of situation has to be solved by society itself. If you take shortcuts and get caught and it is proven that you’ve been stealing, no one can live in that country, no one.”