- Multiple New Zealand record holder Zane Robertson has been banned for eight years after testing positive for EPO
- Robertson, in his defence, claimed to have been given the banned substance after seeking Covid vaccine in Kenya
- Robertson's allegations come at a time when Kenya continues to walk a tightrope as far as doping is concerned
A New Zealand athlete, Zane Robertson, has been banned for eight years after he was found guilty of tampering with doping control processes and failing a drug test.
Robertson tested positive for the banned substance erythropoietin, EPO during a race in England in May last year.
USADA reports that EPO has a long history of abuse in endurance sports. It allows the body to transport more oxygen to muscles and therefore increase stamina and performance.
Robertson, who is the national record holder for the marathon, half-marathon and 10 kilometres races was handed a four-year ban for the positive test and a further four years for trying to sabotage the control processes.
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The Kenyan connection
Even more interestingly, the 33-year-old appeared to blame Kenyan doctors for his predicament. CNN reports that during his defence, he had sworn affidavits from medical professionals in Kenya, where he allegedly went to seek the Covid-19 vaccine. Robertson has set up his training bases in Kenya for quite some time.
He was treated for the virus, where he claims that part of the treatment included the administration of the banned substance. In the sworn affidavits, the medical professionals absolved Robertson from any blame, arguing there was no fault on his part.
However, according to the opposing counsel in the case, the Drug Free Sport New Zealand(DFSNZ), Robertson submitted false testimony after the Vice President of the hospital he claimed he had visited refuted his claims.
DFSNZ produced testimony from the Vice President, who said that Robertson's affidavits were sworn by a lab technician at the hospital and another person who was not even an employee of the hospital.
The Vice President of the hospital also denied that Robertson was administered EPO during his visit to the hospital.
Doping menace in Kenya
This comes at a time when doping continues to be a big headache for authorities in Kenya. Known to be a hotbed for brilliant athletes, Kenya has struggled to maintain her reputation in recent times after a number of doping violations.
Kenya is currently a Category A country under the Anti-Doping Rules of World Athletics, which means her athletes are under intense scrutiny. Kenyan athletes are required to undergo at least three no-notice drug tests before major competitions.
What next for Robertson?
Robertson issued a sly response on social media in February:
"A lot of people/companies involved in almost making me lose interest in the sport completely. A lot of things going on outside the sport also, people sometimes forget that we are humans before we are athletes."
He previously won a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He has also competed at the Tokyo and Rio Olympics. He will be ineligible to compete until 2030.