NEW YORK (Reuters) – A doping scandal threatened to overshadow Geoffrey Mutai’s run at a New York City Marathon hat-trick and Wilson Kipsang’s bid for an eye-popping bonus after their compatriot Rita Jeptoo failed a drugs test.
The two Kenyans are among the headliners for Sunday’s race but were suddenly sharing the spotlight with Jeptoo on Friday after Athletics Kenya said the winner of the Boston and Chicago Marathons the last two years failed a doping test
With beefed up security and concerns about Ebola, a doping controversy was yet another unwanted distraction for the 26.2-mile (42.2-km) race through New York’s five boroughs.
Mutai arrives in New York looking to become just the third man, and first since Alberto Salazar in 1980-82, to win three consecutive times in New York.
The 33-year-old Kenyan set the standard in 2011 with a course record of two hours, five minutes and six seconds. The 2012 race was cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy but Mutai returned in 2013 to win in a more modest 2:08.24.
Mutai will hold a big edge in experience over his training partner Kipsang as the former world record holder makes his New York debut.
Certainly much of the pressure will be on the Kipsang, who needs a win on Sunday to avoid losing the World Marathon Majors title and the $500,000 bonus to compatriots Dennis Kimetto.
The overall championship includes a runner’s best results from six major marathons (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York) over two years.
Mutai and Kipsang, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, plan to attack the course record, however, a weather forecast of gusting winds are likely to keep the mark from falling. The two Kenyans are the only entries with marathon personal bests under two hours and four minutes but a quality field could see another winner emerge from a large pack of contenders.
Other notables include the last two winners of the Boston Marathon, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa and American Meb Keflezighi, reigning Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda and 2010 New York winner Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.