PARIS • Jemima Sumgong, the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold in the marathon when she triumphed in Rio de Janeiro last year, has failed an out-of-competition dope test.
The 32-year-old, who is also the reigning London Marathon champion, tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) in a test by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) at her home.
"The IAAF can confirm that an anti-doping rule violation case concerning the athlete Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (Kenya) has commenced this week," the sport's ruling body said. "The athlete tested positive for EPO following a no-notice test conducted by the IAAF in Kenya.
"This was part of an enhanced IAAF out-of-competition testing programme dedicated to elite marathon runners which is supported by the Abbott World Marathon Majors group."
Sumgong starred at the London Marathon last year, defying the odds to win despite suffering a bruising fall.
Steeled by her success in London, she defeated Ethiopia's world champion Mare Dibaba (who finished third) at the Rio Games to confirm her status as the top marathon runner for 2016.
Before claims of a positive drug test emerged, Sumgong vowed to defend her London title on April 23.
Tim Hadzima, general manager at Abbott World Marathon Majors, organiser of the world's largest marathons including London, said that the organisation was "distressed" by the reports, but added: "If true, they indicate that we are gaining ground in our longstanding fight against doping".
Earlier this year, Sumgong was one of a number of top Kenyan athletes who welcomed a new initiative to eradicate doping, which has tarnished their image, agreeing to be monitored by doctors appointed by the IAAF and Athletics Kenya.
"It will be easy for us now to communicate with these doctors before we take any medicine when the need arises," she said.
News of Sumgong's test was welcomed by other athletes.
US distance runner Emma Coburn, a bronze medallist in the 3,000m steeplechase at last year's Olympics, applauded the IAAF's out-of-competition testing.
"Out of competition testing is so important!! Well done, IAAF. I hope to see more productive results from no-notice out of competition tests," she tweeted.