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Kenyan-born marathoner loses bid for fast-track S. Korean citizenship

All News 16:48 April 06, 2016

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- Kenyan-born marathoner Wilson Loyanae Erupe on Tuesday lost his bid for fast-track South Korean citizenship.

The Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) said Wednesday it will not recommend Erupe to the government for special naturalization, halting his months-long attempt to obtain a South Korean passport.

He may still go through the regular naturalization process if he still wishes to become a South Korean citizen, according to the KOC.

Erupe first declared his intention to become a naturalized South Korean citizen last June and to represent his adopted country in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. In January, the KOC withheld its decision on recommending Erupe for special naturalization, citing a positive doping test of his in 2012.

Erupe received a two-year ban from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in early 2013 after failing an out-of-competition doping test. He has previously claimed he was getting treated for malaria, though Kenya's national athletics federation didn't recognize his therapeutic use at the time.

The KOC on Wednesday noted that Erupe didn't appeal the IAAF suspension and didn't apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) when he failed his test.

Erupe, 27, joined an athletic club run by the Cheongyang County Office in South Chungcheong Province last summer. All of his six marathon victories have come in South Korea, including at this year's Seoul International Marathon in March. He won the race in 2:05:13, the fastest time ever in a marathon held in the country, and also more than two minutes faster than the South Korean record of 2:07:20 set by former Olympic silver medalist Lee Bong-ju in 2000.

Erupe's pursuit of a South Korean passport divided the athletics community here. Some said he could provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the South Korean marathon, which has stagnated for years. No South Korean has even made it under the 2:10:00 mark since Jeong Jin-hyeok's 2:09:28 in 2011.

On the other hand, critics said they'd rather see homegrown runners, not foreign-born athletes, revive the once-proud marathon tradition.

In another decision Wednesday, the KOC said it would recommend female basketball player Chelsey Lee for special naturalization. The 26-year-old American has a paternal grandmother who is Korean.

She played for Bucheon KEB Hana Bank in the Women's Korean Basketball League, averaging 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game to win the Rookie of the Year.


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