Kiprop pos­i­tive test a ma­jor blow for Kenya

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - COMMENT -

THE emer­gence of the Kenyans to dom­i­nate world dis­tance run­ning is one of the great ro­man­tic sto­ries of athletics. Ever since Amos Bi­wott, Kip Keino and Naf­tali Temu made the break­through with a gold, sil­ver and bronze at the Mex­ico Olympics in 1968, the East African coun­try has pro­duced some of the sport’s greats.

What made the achieve­ments of Rud­isha and Ngugi, of Kem­boi and Cheruiyot all the more ap­peal­ing was the back story. In a world where the me­dia im­age of Africa is of a dystopia be­dev­illed by dis­ease, poverty and war, the Kenyan ath­letes showed another face of the con­ti­nent.

Yet in re­cent years it’s been im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the cloud over­hang­ing Kenyan athletics. There have been sev­eral high-pro­file dop­ing of­fences which sug­gested Kenya is one of the sport’s worst of­fend­ers. But the news As­bel Kiprop has tested pos­i­tive for EPO may deal the fi­nal blow to our il­lu­sions about Kenyan run­ning.

Kiprop was one of their very great­est, a three-time World and once Olympic cham­pion over 1,500m. His pos­i­tive test is as shock­ing in terms of Kenyan athletics as Ben John­son’s was to the world of sprint­ing. It’s a sad time for one of the world’s great sport­ing tra­di­tions.

*****

THERE is just one book which I have reread con­stantly over the years. It’s been a good friend to me and I’m on my third bat­tered copy. The book is called

Run­ning Is Easy and it was writ­ten by Bruce Tul­loh who was a cult fig­ure back in the 1960s when he won the Euro­pean 5,000m ti­tle in his bare feet.

Run­ning Is Easy was the book that set me jog­ging af­ter the birth of my first daugh­ter 16 years ago. His style was friendly, sen­si­ble and in­spi­ra­tional in an un­der­stated English man­ner. My com­mit­ment has waxed and waned and the weight has fluc­tu­ated but I al­ways find my way back and when I do I know that if I fol­low Bruce’s ‘First Steps’ ad­vice I’ll soon be back in the groove.

I of­ten in­tended to write to Bruce and thank him for the help. Or, to be more ac­cu­rate, I had a fan­tasy that some day we might bump into each other and I’d thank him in per­son. That won’t hap­pen now be­cause he died last week at the age of 82 of can­cer. Which goes to show you should thank peo­ple when you have the chance. Any­way, thanks Bruce. You made my life a lot bet­ter.

*****

IN the rush to de­ride Real Madrid’s home per­for­mance against Bay­ern Mu­nich, their achieve­ment in qual­i­fy­ing for a third Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in a row has been over­looked. It’s 42 years since Bay­ern Mu­nich be­came just the third team in Euro­pean Cup, as it was then, his­tory to com­plete a hat-trick.

They were out­played in the 1976 fi­nal by St Eti­enne but won 1-0. The pre­vi­ous year Leeds dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion, were de­nied a stonewall penalty and had a goal dis­al­lowed be­fore Bay­ern struck late to win 2-0. And the year be­fore that it took a goal in in­jury-time of ex­tra-time to give Bay­ern a fi­nal draw against Atletico Madrid be­fore they won the re­play.

The truly great teams al­ways seem to ride their luck.

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