Athletics: Kiwi Olympic runner Zane Robertson handed eight-year ban for doping

Zane Robertson in action at the Tokyo Olympics.
Zane Robertson in action at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo credit: Getty Images

Kiwi Olympic long-distance runner Zane Robertson has been handed an eight-year ban after testing positive for a banned substance and providing false documentation in his defence.

Drugfree Sport NZ announced Robertson returned a positive sample for Erythropoietin (EPO) from a test conducted at the UK's Great Manchester Run in May 2022, which was later confirmed with a B-sample.

An additional charge of Tampering with Doping Control was added when documents submitted by Robertson in his defence were found to be fraudulent.

Each of the two charges carry a four-year ban.

Robertson won a bronze medal in the men's 5000m at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

He also represented New Zealand in the marathon at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and Tokyo 2020, and holds six national distance running records.

"Doping denies clean athletes the chance to excel on a level playing field," said Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Nick Paterson.

"Mr Robertson’s actions are not just deeply disappointing, but undermine the high levels of sporting integrity we see and expect from athletes who represent our country."

Zane Robertson celebrates after winning bronze in the Men's 5000m final at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Zane Robertson celebrates after winning bronze in the Men's 5000m final at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014. Photo credit: Getty Images

EPO artificially enhances performance in endurance sport by boosting red blood cells. It's on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list and is banned at all times. Anti-doping sanctions for the substance are uncommon in New Zealand.

Robertson currently resides in Kenya, which is his base for training. DFSNZ acknowledged the co-operation of the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya and the Athletics Integrity Unit during the investigations.

Paterson reiterated the ban includes coaching and any athlete choosing to accept help from Robertson would be at risk of sanctions.

The NZ Olympic Committe called Robertson's offenses "deeply disappointing".

"The offences committed by Zane Robertson are deeply disappointing and his actions go against everything the New Zealand Team stands for," it said.

"We condemn all forms of doping. Every athlete has the right to compete on an even playing field and Robertson’s actions have undermined the integrity of sport.

"We thank Drug Free Sport New Zealand for their commitment to supporting the New Zealand athletes who are proud to compete cleanly. We also acknowledge Athletics NZ, DFSNZ and HPSNZ for extending wellbeing support to Robertson."

High Performance Sport NZ echoed those sentiments, confirming Robertson had been struck from their athlete pathway support programme but said it would take measures to ensure his mental well-being.

"High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) is extremely disappointed by the actions of Zane Robertson in breaching the anti-doping rules," said chief executive Steve Tew.

"The integrity of sport is critical and any action that undermines that is unacceptable.

"Robertson had received HPSNZ funding as a carded and tailored athlete pathway support (TAPS) athlete for a number of years, but he was not nominated for TAPS beyond December 2022. 

"While HPSNZ condemns Robertson’s actions, we are also committed to ensuring athlete wellbeing, and we are working closely with Athletics NZ to ensure the athlete receives the necessary support during this time."

The ban will be back dated to the time of his provisional suspension in September 2022.

Robertson and his twin brother and fellow runner Jake moved to Kenya at just 17 years old to further their running ambitions.

In 2015, he became the only non-African to run a half marathon in under an hour, setting an NZ and Oceania record of 59m 47s at the Kagawa Marugame half marathon in Japan.

At Rio 2016, Robertson finished 12th in the men's 10,000m, breaking the great Dick Quax's record by 8s (27m 33.67s).