Athletes management company Rosa Associati Company has sensationally suspended some of its world-class athletes, including four elite women marathoners, "until investigations into doping allegations are completed."
The athletes management company's director Federico Rosa said besides Olympic champion Jemimah Sumgong, who recently tested positive for banned blood booster EPO (Erythropoietin), they are also investigating Paris Marathon champion Purity Rionoripo, Tokyo Marathon winner Sarah Chepchirchir and Visiline Jepkesho, who won the Paris Marathon last year.
The four athletes are all training partners.
Speaking on telephone to Nation Sport, Federico, who was about to catch his flight to Nairobi, disclosed that the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) was assisting his company in investigations, but failed to state whether the suspended athletes, besides Sumgong, had turned in positive tests.
"Yes, we have suspended some of our athletes and the government of Kenya is helping us with investigations," said Federico.
"We can't talk much since I am about to board a plane to Nairobi. Please send me an email or let us talk when I am in Nairobi."
Athletics Kenya deputy president in charge of competitions Paul Mutwii also confirmed having received a communication from Federico over the suspension, but declined to give details on why they suspended the athletes.
"Federico talked to one of us at AK on phone but we have summoned him to come to Nairobi so that he can explain in detail.
"We really don't want to commit ourselves to what we don't know and the happenings at Rosa Associati," said Mutwii.
"We want answers from Rosa on why they have suspended athletes and if at all they have evidence involving some failed dope tests."
ADAK 'NOT INVOLVED'
However, Adak chief executive officer Japhter Rugut said they were not investigating any other case involving doping apart from Sumgong's.
"If we investigate an issue, we do it independently to avoid conflict of interest," said Rugut.
We work with World Anti-Doping Agency, National Anti-Doping Organisations and International Federations, not individual parties."
Chepchirchir confirmed having been suspended by Federico just after Sumgong had been busted.
"He told me that since I was Sumgong's training partner, I should also stay away up until investigations are complete," said Chepchirchir.
"He never wrote a letter or told me why I was also part of the investigations... I am still in the dark."
The suspensions seen to have thrown spanners into AK works as they battle to find replacements in the marathon team for London World Championships after world women's marathon record-holder Mary Keitany and Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat withdrew saying they would not be ready in time for the August action.
Rionoripo won this year's Paris Marathon in a course record time of two hours 20 minutes and 55 seconds on April 9 while Agnes Barsosio settled for second in 2:20:59.
Rionoripo and Barsosio have been named as reserves in the women's marathon team but Barsosio has also withdrawn citing an injury.