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Doping has destroyed Kenya’s stellar image in athletics

The most recent doping scandals affecting Kenya’s top athletes should give the country reason to stop and ask where its athletics is headed. The shock revelation that star athlete, Asbel Kiprop, had failed a doping test has opened the floodgates of scandal.

With Kiprop’s scandal, it is no longer possible for anybody to continue in the denial that has ruled Kenya’s athletics world, and that has stopped an all out war against doping in Kenya.

Kiprop is only the latest addition to a long list of athletes from Kenya who have been nabbed and banned for doping by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the global body that runs athletics. One wonders who is advising Kenya’s athletes so badly because in the last few years, IAAF has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards doping, and has really tightened up testing.

Worse, it turns out that Kenya’s athletes are among the most tested in the world. It is impossible for Kenyan athletes to get away with behaving badly anymore. No wonder they are getting nabbed every other day.

Kenya used to be a shining light in the world of athletics. Until less than a decade ago, Kenya stood out. There had not been a single case of doping by Kenyan athletes, even as other top performers from other countries were nabbed and banned.

Lost aura

Now Kenya is in the same league as the worst of countries affected by doping. Kenya’s athletics has lost its aura.  Indeed, statistics indicate that of all the cases that have failed doping tests in the world, a quarter are from Kenya. Available information indicates that in the last five years, at least 40 Kenyan athletes have tested positive for banned substances, a very worrying trend. The list includes marathon and track champions, some of whom have been completely dominant.

What is so demoralising is that the problem is with the cream of Kenya’s athletes. Some of the top athletes who have brought Kenyans pride and joy in international competitions have been caught doping, and Kenyans are really crestfallen. One shudders to imagine that this might just be the tip of the iceberg, and more bad news is on the way.

Kenya must restore its lost glory. Its reputation as a clean competitor must be restored. A lot of work, therefore, requires to be done.

The current clean up in the country over corruption must be extended to athletics. Severe disciplinary measures must be taken against athletes, their agents and coaches, and sports administrators who get caught up in doping.

The lifestyle audit being undertaken on all public servants must be extended to Athletics Kenya (AK) and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK). The Government must get to the bottom of this doping monster. It is threatening to kill Kenyan athletics. This mess must be cleaned up immediately.

The stakes are very high. Very many Kenyan youth are out there earning very decent incomes through running in the hundreds of unheralded marathons and other championships that take place in very many capitals of the world.

Kenyans only get to hear of the World Majors, so they might be forgiven for not knowing the quiet millionaires that have been made from “small” city marathons across the world.

Crisis measures

These athletes now run as tarnished specimens, and nobody now believes a Kenyan winner anymore.

Worse, the testing of Kenyan athletes and scrutiny will become worse. Kenyan athletes will now have no respite.

They will be tested at airports, their homes, their training grounds, in and after competition etcetera. This will definitely impact their training and morale.

More ominously, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was on the verge of banning Kenya from competing in the Rio Olympics of 2016 because the country was assessed as too “non-compliant” in its doping structures.

IOC stated that Kenyan athletes had to “prove” they were clean to be allowed to compete.

Kenya had to undertake a series of crisis measures to get a clean bill of health to allow its athletes to compete. It might not be so lucky next time.

The writer can be reached at

[email protected]

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