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Special Session to Decide Tomorrow Whether Erupe Will Become South Korea's First Black Marathoner

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

The symbol of yin and yang upon his chest, a black man may become the first of his kind to represent South Korea in the marathon.  On April 6 the Korean Sports Council (KSC) will hold a session to deliberate on a special recommendation of naturalization for Kenyan-born marathoner Wilson Loyanae Erupe (28, Cheongyang).  Erupe also has the Korean name Joo Han Oh, meaning "I will run for Korea."  The KSC previously held a session on Erupe's naturalization on January 7 but, citing a lack of adequate documentation concerning Erupe's prior suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, postponed making a recommendation.  Erupe claimed that, "The positive result was due to medicine I took for malaria, but Athletics Kenya did not accept this and suspended me for two years."

Following the postponement of the recommendation, the Korean Amateur Athletic Federation (KAAF) applied to the KSC for the special recommendation session after gathering further documentation.  The documentation includes records indicating Erupe's admission to a local hospital in Kenya and certification of verification of these records by the Korean General Hospital.  A KAAF spokesperson commented, "In consultation with domestic malaria experts we have confirmed that prescriptions for the drug in question were unavoidable at the time."

Having served a two-year suspension from competition, the outcome of Erupe's special naturalization hearing will hinge upon whether or not there was willful use of prohibited substances.  KAAF development committee director Bok Ju Kim commented, "Generally speaking, if the goal is to take this drug to improve performance, it must be administered three times a week over the course of two weeks.  Erupe tested positive in out-of-competition testing, not during post-race testing.  Additionally, in other cases to date athletes' abilities have rapidly declined after being caught for drug use.  In Erupe's case it is exactly the opposite."  Prior to his positive drug test Erupe ran 2:05:37 at the March, 2012 Seoul International Marathon, the course record at the time.  In March this year he won Seoul again in a PB time of 2:05:13, a new South Korean all-comers' record and the 4th-fastest time in the world to date this year.

Following his Seoul victory Erupe spent time with his sponsor team Cheongyang Namudo before leaving South Korea on Mar. 27 to return to Kenya for training.  His representative in the naturalization process, Baekseok University professor Chang Suk Oh commented, "Erupe's goal is not just to run in the Olympics, but to act as a leader in South Korea and to make contributions to South Korean marathoning.  If his naturalization is confirmed he plans to return to South Korea immediately."

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