A string of doping cases, headed by last month’s positive EPO test returned by Boston and Chicago marathon winner Rita Jeptoo, has raised questions about the level of testing in the country that has dominated distance running for decades.
An ideal physiology, training at altitude, running to school and a desperate motivation to escape poverty through athletics success are routinely trotted out as some of the reasons behind Kenya’s astonishing performances.
But now, particularly in the wake of Jeptoo’s positive test, people are looking with new eyes.
For Bedford, London Marathon’s head of international relations and a former 10,000 metres world record holder, it is a sad state of affairs but one with a brighter side.
He held a media conference call on Thursday to discuss the first race between world record holder Kimetto and Kipsang, the man whose mark he smashed last September and the reigning London marathon champion.
They head an April 26 field including eight men who have run under two hours five minutes — six of them Kenyan — yet Bedford was forced to discuss the way that doping has emerged in the country and in marathon running after previously largely being restricted to the track.
“We have been aware through rumour for a little while that there were problems in Kenya and I suppose the most shocking thing we’ve seen is the Rita Jeptoo situation,” Bedford said.
“As an event we’ve had quite an extended period of being relatively unaffected by this scourge in comparison to other events.
“But London Marathon and the Marathon Majors are at the centre of ensuring that there is adequate testing and that anyone who is found cheating will not be welcome back at any of our events.
“I believe that a lot of this is about a lack of education in Kenya, with athletes not fully understanding the implications, and in some ways I actually feel heartened that we are on the verge of an opportunity for increased testing with elite marathon runners and increased penalties for those who are caught.”
(Editing by Justin Palmer)