NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya was forced to drop two runners from its Olympic team just over a week before the Tokyo Games because they haven’t taken the required number of out-of-competition doping tests, an official said on Thursday.
That has given 1,500-meter world champion Timothy Cheruiyot a last-minute place on the squad.
Kenya also hasn’t decided if steeplechase world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto will be on the team and able defend his title in Tokyo.
Kipruto dropped out of the race at the national trials last month after two laps and is out of shape, while he is also facing a criminal case in Kenya having been charged last year with statutory rape. He is released on bail.
Kenyan team officials will meet to make a late decision on Kipruto’s inclusion.
Cheruiyot is now a strong contender for gold in the 1,500 in Tokyo after setting the world-leading time this year and winning back-to-back Diamond League titles in Stockholm and Monaco this month. He wasn’t initially on the Kenya team after finishing fourth at the trials.
Cheruiyot will replace 18-year-old Kamar Etiang, who surprised to finish second at the trials in a personal-best time.
But Etiang hasn’t met doping regulations that require Kenyan athletes to take at least three out-of-competition tests within 10 months of a major championship. The tests have to be at least three weeks apart. Those rules are enforced on Kenya because the country is considered high risk by the World Anti-Doping Agency after a large number of doping cases in recent years.
“It’s really unfortunate that Etiang had to be dropped,” Kenya Olympic team general manager Barnaba Korir said. “We have explained this to the athlete and he has understood the situation we are in.”
Another runner, United States-based 400-meter hurdler Moitalel Mpoke Naadokila, was also taken off the team because he hasn’t met the doping test requirements.
This year, Kenya has largely avoided the many doping scandals that marred its buildup to the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and placed severe scrutiny on the country’s celebrated distance runners.
Race walkers Samuel Gathimba and Emily Ngii also won’t be going to Tokyo after their qualifying times at the Kenyan trials weren’t certified because there wasn’t a World Athletics official from outside the country present, Korir said.
He said the Kenyan team tried to arrange for Gathimba and Ngii to compete at an event in Spain to qualify but weren’t able to arrange that in time because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation reported that Gathimba and Ngii have refused to leave the Kenyan team base in Nairobi until the reasons for their exclusion are explained to them.
Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.