New 1,500-meter Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon sat at a podium not long after winning her first major title _ when she beat the world-record holder in the process _ and watched reporters fire questions about doping at the woman on her right.
A hard introduction for the 22-year-old Kenyan and former junior champion, perhaps, but welcome to track and field in 2016.
Sitting to the right of her, Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, the reigning world champion and record holder, promised reporters she was “crystal clean,” a commitment she was asked to make after her coach was arrested in Spain and held for three days in June on suspicion of supplying banned substances.
The coach, Jama Aden, was released but remains under investigation and cannot leave Spain. Suspicion has moved over to athletes under his control.
“The rumors roaming around the world are deeply affecting me,” said Dibaba, who won silver behind Kipyegon. “I have communication with Jama. It’s solely, purely and solely, training and execution and competition. And this (the rumors) adversely affected my performance, my psychology. I’m completely and crystal clean from doping.”
Suspicion is reasonable in this middle-distance event after six of the top eight finishers in the 2012 Olympic final in London _ including gold medalist Asli Alptekin and silver medalist Gamze Bulut _ either were disqualified or are facing allegations of using performance-enhancing substances. Some were caught years later.
What will be said and written about this race in years to come?
Dibaba had been tested “four, five, six” times in the buildup to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, she said, speaking through an interpreter.
As for Aden, Dibaba said he is “only under investigation” and she had received no further information on his case from Spanish police. She would stand by her coach if he was cleared.
Kipyegon, aware her country is under heavy scrutiny amid doping allegations, said she and Kenya were “going by doping control” rules.
And Jennifer Simpson, the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in the event, was asked how she would react if her coach, or part of her close team, was investigated for doping.
“To me, personally, it’s important who I surround myself with in my life,” Simpson said. “And who I surround myself with are people I’m proud to be affiliated with. And that’s important for anyone. Who you are connected to says something.”