2007 Honolulu Marathon men's champ stripped of title

Emily King
Emily King
Ken MacDowell
Ken MacDowell

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - For the first time in the more than 30-year history of the Honolulu Marathon, a winner has been stripped of his title and prize money.

Race officials are cracking down on elite participants who try to boost their performances with banned substances.

Ambesse Tolossa raises his hands in victory, as he clinches his 2nd straight Honolulu Marathon title.

Emily King knows what it takes to train for a long-distance race. She works at Runners Hi, and is on the cross country and track teams at Davidson College in North Carolina.

"You have to have a lot of self-discipline to, you know, force yourself to practice everyday and eat right and hydrate, you know, do everything right," the collegiate runner said.

But Tolossa, a runner from Ethiopia, didn't do everything right. He loses his 2007 Honolulu Marathon crown, after the US Anti-Doping Agency finds he had a banned substance in his system.

"He tested positive for opiates and specifically for morphine," Ken MacDowell, co-race director, said. "It's disappointing to think that he would feel like he needed to cheat."

Race officials say they re-instituted drug testing for the top finishers after the 2006 women's champ, Russia's Lyubov Denisova, tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug three months after she set a course record here.

"We want everybody, when they go to the starting line, to be running with their own God-given talent and nothing helping them along the way," MacDowell said.

Runners Hi is one of the sites accepting applications for this year's marathon. King hopes Tolossa's fall from grace won't tarnish the popular event.

"It's such a hometown marathon," she said. "And we have, you know, a lot of like running friends coming over from Japan and other countries to race here. I mean, I'm just very shocked to hear that someone would go and do that."

The 2007 runner-up, Jimmy Muindi of Kenya, will be awarded his 6th Honolulu Marathon title. He'll also get the $40,000 first-place prize Tolossa would have received.