ELDORET, Kenya — Leading Kenyan athletes have criticized the national federation for suspending their agents in a doping investigation, saying it has hurt their preparations for the world championships and other major competitions this season.
A group of runners led by former marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang issued a joint statement questioning Athletics Kenya's move to suspend two European athlete management companies from working in Kenya for six months.
Italy's Rosa & Associati and the Netherlands' Volare Sports were suspended Monday pending investigations into Kenya's recent spike in doping cases.
"Accusing Rosa and Volare of doping has caused unrest locally and internationally," Kipsang said, reading from a prepared statement Tuesday. "It is unprofessional since AK has not tabled facts and evidence to prove they (the agents) are involved (in doping)."
Two-time 1,500-meter world champion Asbel Kiprop was also present at the news conference in the western town of Eldoret, the training base for many top runners.
More than 30 Kenyans have failed doping tests in the last five years, with women's marathon star Rita Jeptoo, who was represented by Rosa, the highest profile case so far. She was banned for two years in January after testing positive for the blood booster EPO in an out-of-competition test in Kenya last year.
Kenyan authorities have blamed the influence of foreign agents for some of the doping.
Rosa & Associati and Volare Sports both said Wednesday they had not received any information on their suspension or the reasons for it from AK, and were talking to world governing body IAAF.
"What AK is doing is opposite (to what they should do)," Gerard van de Veen, who heads Volare Sports, told The Associated Press. "They ban and then investigate."
Rosa and Volare represent many top Kenyan athletes including Kipsang, Kiprop, current marathon record-holder Dennis Kimetto, two-time New York Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai and women's 800 world champion Eunice Sum, among others.
Van de Veen, who represents Kipsang and Kimetto, denied claims made by AK president Isaiah Kiplagat on Monday that there were more doping cases among Volare's runners. Kiplagat said he couldn't reveal names so as not to hamper investigations, and Kenyan media have also reported another unnamed high-profile athlete has failed a test.
"Many times in the year they get doping control," Van de Veen said, referring specifically to marathoners Kipsang and Kimetto. "They never found something. I really don't understand the reason (for the allegations)."
AK has suggested providing the athletes with temporary managers during their agents' suspension, but that suggestion has been rejected by the runners.
AK "is not trustworthy" in handling finances, allowances and prize money, Kipsang said.
"They cannot manage the over 250 athletes in the two camps," he said.
Kipsang is expected to compete in the London Marathon on April 26, where he is due to run against training partner Kimetto — the man who took his world record last year — for the first time in a marathon.
Kiprop is aiming for a third straight title at the world championships in Beijing in August. Kiprop is on Kenya's team for the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas in early May, while the Diamond League season begins next month.
Their preparations have all been hampered, the athletes said. Kenya's top runners had now been "sucked into" the doping controversy, Kiprop said.