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2021 Boston Marathon champion Diana Kipyokei is provisionally stripped of title for doping

Diana Kipyokei won the 2021 Boston Marathon, the first one held in October.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Diana Kipyokei, who won the Boston Marathon women’s crown in 2021, has been provisionally stripped of her title for testing positive for a banned steroid after the race.

The 28-year-old Kenyan was suspended Friday by the Athletics Integrity Unit of World Athletics, the sport’s global federation. She also was charged with tampering or attempting to tamper with the drug control process by obstructing or delaying the investigation by providing false information or documentation.

Boston Athletic Association spokesman Chris Lotsbom said that, pending Kipyokei’s sanctioning, the race rankings and prize money awards — $150,000 for the winner and $75,000 for the runner-up — would be adjusted.


Should Kipyokei’s ban be upheld, the new women’s champion would be countrywoman Edna Kiplagat, the 2017 victor, who at 41 would be the oldest Boston winner since Clarence DeMar earned his seventh men’s title in 1930.

Kipyokei would be the second Kenyan women’s winner in seven years to have her title taken away. Rita Jeptoo, a three-time champion, had her 2014 victory revoked after testing positive for erythropoietin, a forbidden blood-booster, during an out-of-competition test earlier that year.

Kipyokei, a surprise champion who defeated Kiplagat by 23 seconds, was flagged for using triamcinolone acetonide, a corticosteroid that is prohibited under certain circumstances in competition unless an athlete has an exemption or proof the drug was not employed in a prohibited manner.

Triamcinolone acetonide ordinarily is used topically to clear up skin outbreaks from, for example, eczema, rashes, and allergies. But if taken orally, rectally, or with most injections, it can enhance performance by allowing users to maintain strength while losing weight.

The substance has been implicated in numerous other doping incidents involving Kenyan racers during the past two years, with 10 athletes testing positive in contrast to two from all other countries. Betty Wilson Lempus also was suspended Friday and Mark Kangogo was banned Thursday for three years. Between 2017 and 2020, only three Kenyans tested positive for the drug.


Kipyokei was competing in only her third 26-miler and her first major when she came to Boston for last year’s 125th running.

She was an accomplished half-marathoner who, after winning the Istanbul Marathon the previous November, opted to take on the challenge of the world’s most famous road race on a difficult course.

“I just decided to come and try my luck this year,” Kipyokei said after her Boston victory.

Thirty months had elapsed since the previous race; the 2020 edition was canceled because of the COVID epidemic and the 2021 race postponed until autumn for the first time in history. Five of the six major marathons that year had been shoehorned into six weeks, and since most contenders had raced infrequently if at all, form charts meant little.

For example, the winners of the Berlin Marathon that year, held just days before the Boston race were making their marathon debuts, so it seemed possible a relative unknown could prevail here, too. But Kiplagat, who’d been second in 2019 after her triumph two years earlier, was considered the favorite.

“Edna just knows how to win here,” said former victor Desiree Linden.

But it was Kipyokei who broke away from the pack going into the Newton hills, and she won going away.

“For me it was my great day,” she exulted after leading a Kenyan sweep of the first four places.


Customarily, Kipyokei would have returned for the 2022 race in April to defend her crown, but elected not to come amid unspecified complications with World Athletics.

“There was a situation in which she was involved that they are investigating,” her agent, Gianni Demadonna, told the Globe three days before the race. “She is not suspended. She wanted to come back but it was better not to come back until the problem is clarified.”

She has not run a marathon since the 2021 Boston race.

If her suspension is upheld, she has the right to appeal and could take her case to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has ultimate authority.

Kipyokei likely wouldn’t have been able to pull off a Boston reprise last April. Her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir, who’d won both the Olympics and the New York City Marathon in 2021, ran down Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh in the final two blocks in 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 1 second, nearly four minutes faster than Kipyokei’s time of 2:24:45.

John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com.