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Doping fight brought closer as WADA approves laboratory in Nairobi

James Magayi @magayijim

Reigning Doping Agency (WADA) has approved a laboratory in Nairobi to test the myriads of samples collected from athletes in the East African region and beyond.

The move is seen as Big Brother’s determination to reign in errant Kenyan athletes who keep getting seized in Anti Doping Rule violations. So far, 114 Kenyan runners have fallen foul of the laid-down rules and the country is one of four placed on WADA’s watch list.

LANCET Group of Labs East Africa, a private enterprise, successfully applied for its Nairobi laboratory to become a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-approved laboratory for Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) blood analysis. The bid was initiated and funded by Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) and supported by International Athletics Foundation over the past nine months.

AIU will closely monitor the lab to avoid tempering with samples as in the case of Russia. A statement from AIU read: “The AIU project engaged the services of the Centre of Research and Expertise in Anti-Doping Sciences (REDs) at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) to select a candidate laboratory in the region and then provide training and technical advice to achieve WADA’s approval.

Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei (right) with his treasurer David Miano at a press briefing in Nairobi yesterday where it was announced that Kenya will host a WADA-approved laboratory to test East African athletes. Photo/DAVID NDOLO

This is the first time since WADA’s inception that an international federation has taken the initiative to establish a WADA-approved laboratory in an area of real need.

It shows that the AIU is not accepting of the status quo, but is taking responsibility for the integrity of athletics and getting things done with a proactive and innovative approach.

With the laboratory now in the region, blood samples collected in East Africa will no longer have to be transported to anti-doping laboratories in Europe or South Africa for analysis.

The practice was expensive and posed serious logistical constraints for the samples to be analysed within the required time frames.

The AIU implements one of the most robust and effective ABP programmes worldwide to detect and deter blood doping in athletics, especially in distance running events. Over 3,500 blood samples were collected worldwide by the AIU in 2017 in the context of the ABP, including over 25 per cent from East African athletes.

The ABP programme has resulted in over 100 international-level athletes being sanctioned for anti-doping rule violations so far.

“This laboratory is a major development towards the fight against doping in Africa for athletics and indeed for all sports,” said AIU chairman David Howman.

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