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Eight years after being declared winner of 2014 Boston Marathon, Buzunesh Deba is yet to receive $100,000 prize

The 2014 Boston Marathon’s true winner, Buzunesh Deba, has yet to receive her $100,000 prize. Deba, who initially placed second, was later declared the winner after Rita Jeptoo was disqualified for doping.

Despite being informed of her victory eight years ago, Deba is still awaiting the full payment, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Deba received $25,000 for placing second, a fraction of the winner’s prize. The remaining $75,000 owed to her by the Boston Athletic Association has yet to be paid. The non-payment is allegedly due to Jeptoo’s refusal to return her winnings. In an official statement, the association explained that “the matter is still ongoing.”

Deba however emphasized that it’s the BAA’s responsibility to fulfill her rightful winnings, regardless of Jeptoo’s actions. The Ethiopian elite runner has taken a break from her athletic career to focus on starting a family.

She recalled observing Jeptoo’s seemingly unaffected post-marathon condition, only to discover months later that Jeptoo tested positive for EPO, a banned substance. Subsequent investigations by the International Court of Arbitration in Sport revealed evidence of doping in Jeptoo’s pre-2014 marathon samples.

Jeptoo, a Kenyan native, faced a four-year sanction. Despite this, her victories in 2006 and 2013 remain uncontested. Jeptoo claimed $150,000 for her 2014 victory and an extra $25,000 for setting a course record, awards legally belonging to Deba. The Ethiopian runner’s time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 59 seconds remains the fastest in Boston Marathon history.

The BAA’s delay in paying Deba aligns with World Athletics’ guidelines, which mandate repayment of forfeited prize money by ineligible athletes before new payments are made. However, the BAA could choose to voluntarily compensate Deba. The association holds assets of approximately $30 million, as per The Wall Street Journal.

Jeptoo joined Rosie Ruiz, who infamously cut the course in 1980, as one of the few individuals disqualified from the Boston Marathon after crossing the finish line on Boylston Street.

“She took my chance,” Deba said in 2017 after returning to Boston, where she has also finished third and seventh. “I lost so many things.”

“When you are the champion, the next year, the appearance fees, the contracts, everything” is more lucrative, the two-time New York City Marathon runner-up said in 2017. “My happiness is that day. But she took it from me.”

Deba’s husband and coach, Worku Beyi, said at the same time they are talking to BAA officials about the prize money, “but it is not 100 percent.” They hope Jeptoo will return the money.

“She knows herself she is not champion,” Beyi said.

Stephen Nartey

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