Marathon world record holder Paul Radcliffe has called for stricter punishments for athletes caught doping, including criminal sentencing and fines in excess of the value of prize money won by cheating.
Her comments came days after it emerged that Kenyan reigning Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong had tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO.
Radcliffe, one of track and field’s most outspoken critics of doping, believes that cheating should be criminalised, in part because it would bolster efforts at detection.
The Briton also argues that dopers should have to pay damages to race organisers for smearing their credibility and rival athletes for indirectly harming their reputations.
“Obviously it’s not great news for the sport, but I prefer to look on it as actually very good news in that cheats getting caught more now,” said Radcliffe, who ran her final marathon on 2015.
“It’s always been the case, unfortunately, that the risks of cheating have to outweigh the benefits. The benefits are greater in road running in particular because there is more money available and people who choose to cheat can, short-term, make those gains.
“I think that’s why we have to move forward in terms of making the risks greater, making sure those cheats have to pay back everything they won and also maybe they are liable for the damages they have taken from other athletes.
“Because they damage the sport, they damage their fellow athletes in many ways, by stealing their moments, by putting their own reputations in danger by choosing to cheat, and they damage the reputation of the race. So I think the costs for them have to be made much greater to discourage cheating much more.”
Radcliffe said she did not believe in sending dopers to jail, but added: “I do advocate making doping a criminal offence, so that you can face criminal sanctions for doping, for supply of doping and for managers and the entourage who encourage and facilitate it.
“It makes it much easier then to track by using agencies such as the FBI, customs agencies, and it makes it far easier to raid athletes’ houses and be able to search when you have strong suspicions.”
Sumgong’s positive test means she will not be able to defend her London Marathon title on 23 April and is the latest in a series of instances of doping by Kenyan athletes.
Ban Kenya like Russia
Radcliffe said there was a case to hand the east African country a blanket ban from athletics similar to the one Russian remains under.
“At the moment it looks like Kenyan athletes are doing damage to athletics in the same way that the Russians were, and they were heavily sanctioned,” the 43-year-old told BBC Sportsweek.
“There should be fines and sanctions in my opinion for federations and managers who surpass a certain number of athletes caught doping – and that money should then go into the anti-doping budget. And when you go over a certain threshold maybe the country does face a ban until they can prove they have got their house in order.”