On July 18 it was learned from several sources connected with the situation that a member of the 2017 National Corporate Women's Ekiden champion team Universal Entertainment who left the team at the end of last season tested positive for a banned substance in a doping test carried out at the ekiden. Universal Entertainment won the national championship race, its second-ever title and first in five years. But because the athlete's result will be annulled the team will also be stripped of its title, an unprecedented situation in the ekiden's history.
According to an involved source, before the race the athlete took her own personal medicine which included the prohibited substance. The athlete denied having taking the medicine in order to enhance her performance. Team management claimed the athlete had not informed then that she was taking it, and that the situation was the result of her personal carelessness.
The Universal Entertainment team was founded under the name Aruze in 2004 under the guidance of Yoshio Koide, who coached Olympic women's marathon medalists Yuko Arimori and Naoko Takahashi. It won its first National Corporate Women's Ekiden title in 2012.
Editor's note: I believe this is the first time in modern history it has been announced publicly that a Japanese distance runner has tested positive inside Japan, and following Kaori Yoshida's positive test for EPO at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon only the second time one has been sanctioned. It follows a string of Japanese athletes testing positive in other sports, in most cases ruled inadvertent, and calls within the Japanese system for organizations to get their ships in order ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The efforts of the team organization to distance itself from the athlete are notable in this case. Two members of Universal Entertainment's 2017 Nationals roster are no longer listed on the current team roster, of which only one, Moeno Nakamura, ran in the ekiden. Nakamura ran the second-fastest time on the Fifth Stage to put Universal Entertainment into 1st, its anchor then holding on for the win. Listed as the coach of the Nationals team, Keigo Osawa is also no longer listed on the current team roster.
Further developments: Read Nakamura's statement. Read the official statement made by corporate league chair Koichiro Nishikawa.
translated by Brett Larner