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Boston Marathon notebook: Doping talk continues; Americans sweep BAA 5K races

4/18/2015

The last time athletes, agents, coaches and organziers gathered for a World Marathon Majors race on U.S. soil, at the 2014 New York Marathon last November, the party was spoiled by news of Kenyan Rita Jeptoo's positive test for EPO.

Jeptoo -- winner of the past two Boston and Chicago Marathons -- had been set to collect the $500,000 prize for winning the women's WMM series title.

The doping conversation has carried over to the 2015 Boston Marathon, where Italian coach Gabriele Nicola is in attendance to oversee the training of athletes Sharon Cherop, Aberu Kebede and Shure Demise Ware.

The coach offered his thoughts on the current atmosphere in Kenya amid the recent suspension of two athlete management companies from working in the country for six months.

"There is no doping in America? There is no doping in Europe? There is no doping in Turkey?" Nicola replied when asked about the latest Kenyan controversies. "Everybody is a human being. So if they decide to take drugs, there's anti-doping. If they get caught, they pay the price and deal with it."

Nicola reiterated the belief held by some that Africans runners might be more tempted to cheat when there are sometimes lucrative race winnings to be had.

"When there is money involved in a country that is poor, there is more chance that someone wants to take shortcuts," Nicola said.

Some of the athletes coached by Nicola fall under the umbrella of Volare Sports Management, one of the companies suspended in Kenya. He has yet to receive any further information about the situation and expects to be in London to assist Kenyan runner Mary Keitany.

"I want to see the statement from the federation with A, B, and C reasons for suspending somebody," Nicola said.

Nicola coaches most of his athletes from afar and has assistant coaches in Kenya and Ethiopia to help report athlete progress from workouts. He clarified that he has no connection to athletes outside of their professional life, and any doping decisions come from the athlete alone.

"You cannot get medicine on the street like tomatoes," Nicola said. "You have to go to a chemist or to a doctor. As far as I know, there is no chemist or foreign doctor working in there where the [runners] are living. I believe they've found a doctor in Kenya. They sell something to the athlete.

"Why do they go? They run for life. They need to get money. Somebody decided, 'Let me take a shortcut to try and change my life.' It is not correct. You must do it according to the law."

Nicola preaches to his athletes that it's "better to be last than to be lost," as a reminder of the high risks involved in doping.

"It's not nice and it's not a good image for the sport," Nicola said. "It's not nice for who's clean. Generalizing it doesn't help."

American records at BAA 5K

Ben True (13:22) and Molly Huddle (14:50) won the Boston Athletic Association's men's and women's 5-kilometer race in American record fashion on Saturday morning. Both races were decided in the final meters.

True defeated NYC Half runner-up Stephen Sambu by one second on the men's side, while Huddle held off a late charge by Ethiopian Sentayehu Ejigu.

Ethiopians sweep BAA miles

Dejen Gebremeskel took the lead from the sound of the gun in the BAA men's elite mile. He never relinquished first place and broke the tape in 4:04. Chris O'Hare of the Boston Athletic Association High Performance team was second in 4:07.

On the women's side, Morgan Uceny took the early lead, but Dawit Seyam would make the pass en route to a 4:35.4 course-record win.