Like vultures circling a targeted prey in the desert, Western media is all over Kenya seeking any tell-tale signs of foul play ahead of the Olympic Games slated for Rio de Janeiro next month. German TV ARD and Britain’s Sunday Times once again published an eight-minute video insinuating prevalent Erythropoietin (EPO) use in an athletics training camp in Iten.
Empty vials of EPO, the performance-enhancing drug which felled marathoner Rita Jeptoo, are filmed in the camp’s waste bins and an athlete said to rabbit for Europeans in the camp leads the ARD and Sunday Times journalists to two doctors said to be prescribing the drugs for 60 Euros (Sh6,700).
One doctor says he has prescribed the drug to over 50 athletes including three Britons. The allegations of drug use among Kenyan athletes are common place especially at the dawn of major championships.
The trend, set in 2012 ahead of London Olympics, took a predictable pattern but will no doubt affect Kenya’s preparations for the Rio fiesta. Last week saw the arrests and arraignment in court of athletes’ agent Federico Rosa and marathon coach Claudio Barardelli in a Nairobi court.
Rosa Associati, managed by Federico, has contributed a myriad athletes into Team Kenya for the Rio Olympics including Asbel Kiprop and Mercy Cherono. The doping allegations, if proved, could potentially deal a deathly blow to a country that has thrived on athletics.
Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) formed last year, is under immense pressure to launch and sustain a doping control programme to tame the wanton abuse that is threatening to discredit the gains made by Kenyan athletes. “There are clean athletes and crooked ones who want to win quick money.
The problem is not in Kenya alone but everywhere else in the world. Most of our athletes earn victories from their hard work and sweat, just a minority happen to engage in this vice and there, we cannot lump the blame on all the athletes,” said Athletics Kenya vice-president Paul Mutwii.
“A very good number of Kenyan athletes regularly participate in international championships and races where they are tested. They have been under different credible anti-doping jurisdictions and passed clean.
I don’t understand why someone would launch a concerted effort to try and find them cheating,” he added. “If an athlete cheats in Kenya or USA or Jamaica, they must be sanctioned. The media, however, focuses on Kenya and not looking into others but if they can help root out the problem here it is well and good,” he said.