Organizers of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) have released details of a new race series format that will be launched at the Tokyo Marathon.

The event marked the official start of the Abbott’s title sponsorship of the series. It will see the introduction of a new one-year cycle of qualifying races featuring what is described by AWMM as unprecedented anti-doping protocols.

The series that included the Boston, Tokyo, BMW Berlin, Virgin Money London, TCS New York City, and Bank of America Chicago Marathons already has a policy under which no athlete is eligible to win the AWMM Championship title if he or she is found guilty of any anti-doping rules that are enforced by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), any of the individual AWMM races, or national federations.

Starting from 2015, the anti-doping efforts have been stepped up with the AWMM creating a pool of championship-eligible runners who will be undergoing additional out-of-competition drug testing. The AWMM will also be adjusting prize money payments that will be adjusted for taking advantage of long-term biological mapping of athletes. From now on, the $500,000 awarded each to the male and the female champion will not be a one-time lump sum affair but it will be paid out over the course of five years at $100,000 each year.

World Marathon Majors suffered its most dramatic doping setback when Kenyan marathon runner Rita Jeptoo tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), a blood-boosting steroid. Jeptoo was banned for two years by Athletics Kenya, effective from 30 October 2014 to 29th October 2016, after her A and B samples revealed the presence of EPO.

In 2014, Jeptoo set the course record in Boston Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 18.57 minutes. Jeptoo, a winner of the Chicago Marathon twice and Boston Marathon thrice, is now ruled out of the World Championship in Beijing this summer but also the Rio Olympics in 2016. Any financial reward earned by Rita Jeptoo, as a result of her winning the 2013/14 World Marathon Majors, has already been rescinded. The Kenyan athlete faces possible forfeiture of her 2014 titles and could be asked to repay the $15,000 she received for conquering the Boston Marathon and the $25,000 bonus for setting the course record.

Erythropoietin is a protein hormone used by athletes and bodybuilders to enhance performance. The hormone, which is produced by the kidney, stimulates the production of red blood cells in the body when it gets released into the blood stream. It is worthwhile to note here that Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) have been used in endurance sports like boxing, cycling, horseracing, rowing, race walking, cross country skiing, distance running, Mixed Martial Arts, cross country skiing, and triathlon. Medically used to treat anemia, EPO can increase oxygen carrying capacity of the body. In addition to these distinctive advantages, Erythropoietin is also beneficial to speed up the process of wound healing. It also plays a critical role in response of the brain to neuronal injury and can improve absorption of iron by suppressing hepcidin (a hormone). Erythropoietin is also useful in stimulating angiogenesis and stimulating proliferation of smooth muscle fibers.

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