Asbel Kiprop won an Olympic gold medal at just 19 years and went on to have an illustrious career, especially in the 1500M race. He bagged three world championships, two African championships, and a World Cross Country; and at the time, he hit the epitome of his career.
However, all this came cràshing in 2018 when the Athletics Integrity Unit handed Kiprop a four-year ban on allẹgations of dọping. For close to four years, Kiprop had to live with the reality of not competing in any athletics event. He served his term amid difficulties and, as he now says, he is ready to pull a monumental comeback – and to prove his doubters wrong.
“Being notified that I had failed a sample test was mysterious to me,” Mr Kiprop said in a recent interview . “At first I thought it was an error and knew the concerned body would identify the error. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I saw my career cràshing. I tried all means to redeem myself but nothing worked my way. The hard reality hit me and yes I had to serve the ban though in protest.”
He could not imagine losing sponsors and important partnerships, and above all, doing what he loved: running at the international stage.
“It became so tragic especially to myself. Fans all over the world concluded and termed me a cheat and a let-down. I had to handle everything alone, my management distanced itself, I had partnerships that came to an end, friends left. This is something I wouldn’t wish to happen to anyone, not even my worst enemy.”
Mr Kiprop, 32, says four years to him felt like being in priso̩n. He was blocked from training with other elite athletes or sharing any resources with them. “It reached a time when I became alcoho̩lic. It was sort of deprẹssion. I thank God my strength didn’t fail me and for the few people who stuck closer, making it easier for me to come back. Maybe I would not have made it.”
Mr Kiprop was the first-ever Kenyan to win 1500M gold at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He says he is now free to train with fellow athletes after serving the four-year-ban. He is excited at his return and looking to redeem his name and bring glory back to his fans and country.
Being a police chief inspector, Mr Kiprop said he will make his domestic return at the Kenyan police track and field championships in Nairobi on 6th April, where he will seek selection for the national championships and the world athletics trials.
“I am happy to be back,” he says. “Even though it won’t be easy because I know many race organizers may shy away from inviting me, I will give my all to the few I will get. I believe in gradual progress starting from training. I am eyeing the police championships in April and I hope to make it to the national championships and be able to qualify for trials so that I can represent my country again.”
To him, coming back is his priority. Coming back with hopes and conquering more than he did before. He has, however, stated clearly that he won’t participate again in the 1500M race and instead will compete in the 800m, which was his initial event as a junior athlete.
“I know there is a lot of expectations over my return,” Mr Kiprop says. “I am coming with a lot of hopes but for the expectations, let’s celebrate when we win.”