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Monday, May 20, 2024

Boston Marathon Organizers Still Owe Tens of Thousands to Former Winner

  • The Boston Athletic Association says it’s trying to recoup the money from the original winner after a doping conviction.
  • No rule is preventing the B.A.A. from paying Buzunesh Deba the money on its own.
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Marathon is taking its time paying a former winner. 

Buzunesh Deba, who came in second place in the 2014 race, was bumped up to first after notorious doper and three-time Boston winner Rita Jeptoo was busted in ’16. (Only Jeptoo’s 2014 title was disqualified.)

Yet with the 2024 marathon on tap for Monday, Deba is still out tens of thousands of dollars owed as the official winner. The Wall Street Journal reported on her saga Friday. Deba is still owed $75,000 for the difference between first- and second-place prize money, and another $25,000 for her 2:19:59 time becoming the course record after Jeptoo was disqualified.

The Boston Athletic Association, which operates the marathon, has a reason for why Deba has yet to be paid: Jeptoo, the original winner, won’t give her winnings back, Deba told the Journal

“The Boston Athletic Association stands for clean sport and fair competition,” a B.A.A. spokesperson said to Front Office Sports in an email. “Following the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the B.A.A. pursued reclaiming winnings from Rita Jeptoo. As the matter is still ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Deba, who has since taken time off from competitive running to start a family, told the WSJ it’s not Jeptoo’s responsibility to return the money as much as it is the B.A.A.’s to pay her. 

It’s through anti-doping measures that Deba, a native of Ethiopia, became the winner. She recalled to WSJ that Jeptoo didn’t seem tired after finishing the 2014 marathon. At the time, Jeptoo hadn’t failed a drug test, but she did four months later, when her sample contained EPO, a banned substance. 

The result triggered an investigation by the international Court of Arbitration of Sport, which concluded Jeptoo’s pre-marathon test had evidence of doping. Jeptoo’s 2014 marathon win was disqualified by the CAS as part of a four-year sanction against her. 

The rules of World Athletics, running’s international governing body, say that prize money is required to be reallocated “only if and when all the forfeited prize money has been repaid by the Ineligible Athlete to the relevant person or entity.” The federation told the WSJ that B.A.A. isn’t prevented from paying Deba “on a purely voluntary basis.”Of course, the B.A.A. could pay Deba the money she’s owed if it wants to. According to the WSJ, the nonprofit has reported having nearly $30 million in assets on hand.

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