The man who used to hold the marathon world record, Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, will be taking on his greatest rival and the man who took his record away, Dennis Kimetto, for the first time over the 26.2-mile distance in this year’s London Marathon.
Today it was announced that Kipsang would defend his London title on 26 April against his compatriot Kimetto in a duel that has been billed the “Clash of Champions”.
The pair are among a host of high-profile athletes in the field from a nation on which the doping spotlight has been shining for some time, and Kipsang took the opportunity to state his belief that attitudes were changing among Kenya’s athletes despite a spate of failed drugs tests.
“The sport is not totally clean but we know that many of the athletes – maybe 99 per cent – have been training and winning races [clean],” he said. “Until now, the sport is really clean because many of the athletes are training really well and winning races out of their own [accord], but maybe there are a few that had been cheating and this is an issue.
“But there are really very great measures under way in Kenya to protect the sport,” he added. “We have seen that many athletes don’t understand what doping is and what we are trying to do as athletes is create awareness and teach ourselves what it is all about.
“Now the ban has been increased from two to four years [under new World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines from 1 January] that will act as a deterrent. We’re trying to find out how they fall prey in this situation.”
Forty Kenyans are believed to have produced positive samples in the past two years, leading the nation’s most high-profile athlete, David Rudisha, to accuse his fellow countrymen of slacking in the fight against drugs.
London Marathon 2014: The elite races in pictures
London Marathon 2014: The elite races in pictures
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Mo Farah of Great Britain starts the London Marathon
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Mo Farah passes through Blackfriars tunnel
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Wilson Kipsang of Kenya (second from right) crosses Tower Bridge before winning the London Marathon
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Marcel Hug of Switzerland leads David Weir of Great Britain through Blackfriers tunnel
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British paralympic wheelchair athlete David Weir near Blackheath
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Edna Kiplagat of Kenya crosses the line to win the women's race in the London Marathon
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Wilson Kipsang of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the men's elite race at the London Marathon
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London Marathon winners Wilson Kipsang (left) and Florence Kiplagat (right), both from Kenya, pose on the podium
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Men's Elite winner Wilson Kipsang (centre) of Kenya poses with second placed Stanley Biwott (left) of Kenya and third placed Tsegaye Kebede (right) of Ethiopia
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Mo Farah poses for the photographers after finishing eighth
Former London Marathon race director Dave Bedford, now in charge of international relations for the event, insisted race organisers are improving their prevention techniques.
“I think it’s fair to say that as an event we have had quite an extended period of being relatively unaffected by this scourge in comparison to other events,” he said. “I believe that quite a lot of the issues are about a lack of education in Kenya, with athletes not fully understanding the implications.
“In some ways, I feel heartened that we are on the verge of an opportunity for increased testing in marathon running and increased penalties for those who are caught. While this is a difficult period we are going through, it is something that can be resolved and we, in London, will continue to ensure the athletes who are competing there are clean.”
The issue of doping in Kenya somewhat overshadowed the announcement of the elite men’s field, which includes five of the world’s top 10 runners as well as Mo Farah’s track rival Kenenisa Bekele.
Farah, who took part in last year’s race, has put his own marathon ambitions on hold to focus on his track ambitions over 5,000m and 10,000m at next year’s Olympics.
London should come down to a head-to-head between occasional training partners Kipsang, the London course record holder, and Kimetto, who clocked the world’s fastest time of 2:02.57 to win last year’s Berlin Marathon.
Berlin has notoriously been the world’s quickest course but Kipsang said: “I think for me I could try to go for [the world record] in London. It’s a very nice course. If the weather is OK and the guys are really ready to go for a fast time, it’s possible on that course.”
But Bekele aside, there will be threats to the Kenyan pair from compatriots Emmanuel Mutai, a winner in London in 2011, Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott, runner-up to Kipsang a year ago. As Kipsang warned: “We have other strong guys so it’s not just us. You might be surprised.”
Head to head: Kipsang vs Kimetto
Kipsang: 15 Mar, 1982
Kimetto: 22 Jan, 1984
Fastest marathon time
Kipsang: 2:03:23, Sept 2013, Berlin
Kimetto: 2:02:57, Sept 2014, Berlin
Kipsang: 2012 Olympic Bronze; 2012 & 2014 London Marathons; 2013 Berlin Marathon; 2014 NY Marathon
Kimetto: 2013 Tokyo Marathon; 2013 Chicago Marathon; 2014 Berlin Marathon
The pair have never faced each other over a marathon distanceReuse content