Two Malaysians ran faster than the existing national record in the Tokyo Marathon 2018 but unfortunately, their accomplishments have not been ratified

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang and Assistant National Director for Political Education for the DAP, on the 2nd of March 2018

Imagine running 42km in slightly under 2 hours 30 minutes in 5-degree Celsius weather and setting what you thought was a national record for the marathon, only to find out that your record couldn’t be ratified by your country’s governing body for athletics. That was exactly what happened to Leo Tan in last Sunday’s 2018 Tokyo Marathon. He set what he thought was a national record, clocking a nett time of 2 hours 25 minutes and 28 seconds (gun time of 2 hours 25 minutes and 32 seconds). Not far behind Leo, was Muhaizar Muhamad, 2017 SEA Games marathon bronze medallist, who clocked an impressive 2:27:21 nett time in his first overseas marathon. The times of both Leo and Muhaizar were faster than the Malaysian marathon record in the record books (more on this later). But for the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) to ratify Leo’s timing as a national record, he had to undergo a doping test. Since both Leo and Muhaizar were not considered as elite runners (the winner, Dickson Chumba of Kenya, won in a time of 2 hours 5 minutes and 30 seconds), the Tokyo Marathon race director did not allow them to take the doping test. This was noted by Leo in a facebook post (see below).

For Leo and Muhaizar to be eligible to go through the doping test, the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) must write to their counterpart in Japan namely, the Japanese Association of Athletics Federation (JAAF) to request for them to ask the anti-doping agency in Japan to test the Malaysian runners if one or both of them were to break the Malaysian national record for the marathon. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have taken place.

This is not the first time that this has happened. In 2017, Leo Tan took part in the Tokyo Marathon and ran what he thought was a national record of 2:28:19 but because he was not allowed to take the drug test, his record was not ratified by MAF. As far as I know, the current Malaysian national record for the marathon was set by Woo Chan Yew at the Montreal Marathon in Canada in September 2010 with a time of 2 hours 28 minutes and 36 seconds.[1]

The Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) should have no excuse for not sending a request to their counterpart in Japan to ask for drug testing at the Tokyo Marathon for our top two runners if they broke the national record. Leo Tan, who is based in Taiwan, represented Malaysia in the 2017 SEA games and finished fourth behind Muhaizar. Muhaizar is based in Kuala Lumpur and was, until the end of last year, trained by a Kenyan coach, Samuel Kipsang Rono, who was employed by the Olympic Council of Malaysia.[2] Muhaizar is also sponsored by ASICS which, according to a blog post by well-known racing enthusiast and race photographer, Rozmi Yunus, had a meeting with the President of MAF, Dato Karim Ibrahim, to discuss plans for Muhaizar to break the national record for the marathon.[3]

It is disgraceful for these two Malaysian athletes to train so hard and to break the national record only to find that not only have their efforts not been acknowledged by the president of the MAF or the Minister of Youth and Sports, but to find that the national record that one of them thought he had set is not even going to be ratified by the MAF. In contrast, Yuta Shitara, who set a national record in the same 2018 Tokyo Marathon with a time of 2 hours 6 minutes 11 seconds was rewarded with a 100 million-yen bonus (approximately RM3.6 million) and was celebrated as a national hero in Japan.[4]

I call upon the Minister of Youth and Sports, Brigadier General Khairy Jamaluddin, to hold the President of MAF to account and ask him why no request was sent to the JAAF to have our runners drug tested after the 2018 Tokyo Marathon. This is the least he can do after the superb effort put in by Leo and Muhaizar.

Photo of Muhaizar from his FB page[5]

[1] Woo ran a 2:25.07 in the Grandma’s marathon in Duluth, Minnesota but this was a downhill course that was not eligible for record setting.