NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — World 1,500-meter champion Asbel Kiprop defended his manager against doping accusations on Friday after the manager was released on bail while Kenyan police investigate him for allegedly providing banned substances to another runner as far back as 12 years ago.
Kiprop, also the 2008 Olympic champion, has not been implicated in any doping but posted a statement on social media where he backed his agent, Italian Federico Rosa, who he said was being "accused falsely."
"I have worked with Federico Rosa since 2008. I will work with Rosa to my retirement. I will stand out for the truth," Kiprop said in his statement.
The legal case threatens to develop into another embarrassing episode for Kenyan athletics, which has been hit hard by doping scandals over the last four years. It also comes less than a month ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where Kenya's track and field team was already expected to come under heavy scrutiny.
Athletes and officials, and Kenya's anti-doping authorities, have all been mired in problems. Around 40 runners have been banned for doping since the 2012 Olympics, four senior federation officials face allegations of corruption, including doping cover-ups, and Kenya's drug-testing program has been suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The police case against Kiprop's manager, Rosa, relies on accusations made by Elijah Kiprono Boit, a former runner who competed at the 2001 and 2004 world youth championships.
The accusations against Rosa are unclear. In court documents, police said Rosa helped administer prohibited substances to Boit, and "conspired to injure" him through doping in a period from 2004-08. Rosa has not formally been charged or entered a plea, and was released on $3,000 bail on Friday having been held in custody for three days. He surrendered his passport and cannot leave Kenya.
Kiprop also attended the court hearing in support of his agent.
Six of Rosa's athletes will run at the Olympics next month, including Kiprop, 2016 London Marathon winner Jemima Sumgong, and two-time 10,000-meter world championships bronze medalist Paul Tanui.
Rosa has also previously represented at least three Kenyan athletes who have been banned for doping: Champion marathoner Rita Jeptoo, Mathew Kipsorio, and 800-meter runner Agatha Jeruto.
But in his statement, world champ Kiprop suggested Kenyan authorities were looking for a scapegoat by blaming Rosa for doping cases. Kiprop cited the example of Kisorio, who was banned from 2012-14 for steroids.
"It is our own people who doped our athletes and a good answer to this is when Mathew Kisorio doped he confessed and showed the doctor who doped him to the authorities," Kiprop said. "No action was taken against the doctor."
Kenya's anti-narcotics unit, which is leading the investigation into Rosa, said it wanted to investigate "all athletics training camps in the country" for doping.
Associated Press writer Tom Odula contributed to this story.
Imray reported from Somerset West, South Africa.