Nick Willis has refused to consider the "what-ifs" relating to the four-year ban of 2008 Olympic 1500-metre champion Asbel Kiprop.

Kiprop was banned for doping offences detected in 2017 when he alleged the officials who collected his test extorted money from him and tainted his urine sample.

The 29-year-old Kenyan was promoted to gold after a positive drug test saw original winner Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain disqualified in 2009.

Willis - who initially took bronze but was elevated to silver – is prevented from reaching the top of the dais because the 10-year statute of limitations passed last year.


His rivals' cheating raises questions about the commercial opportunities Willis has lost without the "Olympic champion" label attached during a storied professional career covering the best part of this century.

Willis won't speak specifically about the Kiprop situation, but said he's always been a realist since joining the sport's top level.

"Who knows what would've happened," Willis told NZME.

"Perhaps I wouldn't have been as motivated later in my career - or had the perseverance to go after a medal in Rio at 33-years-old. That's something I'll always hold dearly."

The man who ended up beating Kiwi Nick Willis for Olympic gold has been banned for doping. Photo / Kenny Rodger.
The man who ended up beating Kiwi Nick Willis for Olympic gold has been banned for doping. Photo / Kenny Rodger.

Willis said he knew what he was signing up for as a professional runner.

"I wasn't naïve to what was out there. I am still a willing and able participant in the sport and have been greatly enriched by sponsors, the experiences I've had, and the friendships I've made.

"It's not healthy to go down the path of what-ifs."

Willis became the first Kiwi to earn two medals in the 1500m with his 2016 bronze.


He's also the oldest male to reach the podium in the event, eclipsing Kenyan Kip Keino, who was 32 when he took silver at Munich in 1972.

For many, Willis is now the country's unofficial fourth Olympic 1500m champion alongside Jack Lovelock, Sir Peter Snell and Sir John Walker.

This year Willis faces a fork in the road ahead of the world championships in Doha.

Two days shy of his 36th birthday [April 25], he's contemplating a step up to the 5000m this northern hemisphere summer.

He's open to the idea of increasing his distance or equally sticking to his career forte, the 1500m.

"I've had a trying indoor season putting an emphasis on speedwork, but I learnt that my strength is endurance and we neglected that.

"I've been working on my 5000m training and am keen to see what I can do in the first three months of the European season."

Willis' key 5000m attempt will come at the Rome Diamond League meet on June 6.