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2021 Boston Marathon winner suspended for violating anti-doping rules

The woman who won the Boston Marathon last year has been provisionally suspended for violating anti-doping policies, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced Friday. She could also lose her title as the female winner of the 2021 race.

Diana Kipyokei, of Kenya, was tested on Oct. 11, 2021 — the day of the marathon — and was found to have a prohibited substance, “a metabolite of triamcinolone acetonide,” in her system, according to the AIU, which governs drug testing and other potential integrity violations for the sport. She was also accused of attempting to tamper with doping control, “including obstructing or delaying the AIU’s investigation through the provision of false information or documentation.”

2021 Boston Marathon
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey places a wreath on womens winner Diana Kipyokei, of Kenya at the 125th Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 11, 2021.

Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images


The AIU said in its Friday press release that triamcinolone acetonide is banned in competitions because it can “potentially enhance performance and be harmful to health.” The ban covers all methods for administering the substance, which include oral, rectal and all injectable routes. However, the AIU noted, the substance, when administered via injection, was not banned at the time of the 2021 marathon. That rule was enacted at the start of 2022.

The AIU said that if an athlete was to use that type of substance, they would need to have submitted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) or proof that they did not administer it through a prohibited route. Failure to produce a TUE or other proof is an anti-doping rule violation, the organization said. 

In response to the AIU’s report, the Boston Athletics Association announced Friday that Kipyokei’s result would be disqualified “pending the completion of relevant athlete appeals processes.”

“The B.A.A. is committed to providing a fair environment for competition and supports all measures that ensure the integrity of the sport,” it said in a statement.

Pending Kipyokei’s sanction, the BAA said it will adjust the 2021 Boston Marathon rankings and prizes.

Another Kenyan runner, Betty Wilson Lempus, also tested positive for triamcinolone acetonide after running — and winning — the Harmonie Mutuelle Semi de Paris in September 2021, the AIU said in its press release. Although she was cleared of the doping charge, she is accused of attempting to tamper with doping control.

The AIU said 10 Kenyan athletes have been charged with using triamcinolone acetonide within the last year.

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