NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The former coach of banned marathon runner Rita Jeptoo was acquitted Thursday in a Kenyan court of charges that he helped administer the blood-booster EPO to her.
Italian national Claudio Berardelli was cleared of charges of conspiring to harm Jeptoo's career by administering a banned substance. Daniel Cheribo Kiplangat, an assistant coach who worked with Berardelli, and pharmacist Stephen Kiplagat Tanui were also cleared of the charges in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Kiplagat, however, was found guilty on other charges of operating a pharmacy without proper certification.
The three men were arrested and released on bail more than a year ago.
Jeptoo, a three-time Boston Marathon and two-time Chicago Marathon winner, tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test in September 2014, just before she was due to claim a $500,000 prize as the top marathon runner in the world.
Her case was the highest profile of dozens of Kenyan doping scandals in the years following the 2012 London Olympics. Jeptoo was initially banned for two years but the sanction was increased to four years last year.
Kenyan authorities were interested in any role Berardelli may have played in Jeptoo's doping because of the coach's association with other top Kenyan athletes.
But the court ruled that prosecutors failed to prove that Berardelli and his co-accused were responsible for providing and administering the EPO while they were working with Jeptoo.
The three went on trial in Kenya despite a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling last year that found Jeptoo received the EPO in an injection or injections from an unnamed doctor and hid her doping from her coaching team.
In his judgment on Thursday, Magistrate Kennedy Kipkurui Cheruiyot quoted that CAS ruling and agreed with the defense that there was no evidence that Berardelli injected Jeptoo with EPO.
Jeptoo's initial ban was doubled last year after CAS ruled there were aggravating circumstances in her case in that she used EPO "as part of a scheme or plan."
Jeptoo had her results from April 17, 2013 annulled, meaning her 2014 victories at the Boston and Chicago marathons were wiped out. Now 36, Jeptoo is banned until October 2018.