© Copyright – 2013 – Athletics Illustrated
Hans-Joachim “Hajo” Seppelt is a journalist for ARD, a nationwide German TV and radio broadcasting network located in Berlin. He is, as his bio indicates, a film author who is involved in creating features and reporting for all of the German state broadcasting institutions. At this time, he is primarily reporting for the regional WDR network with the doping editorial team (WDR in Cologne).
Seppelt is also a reporter and expert for the ARD network on doping, politics in sport and coverage of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, as well as other major sports events.
Seppelt recently spent time undercover in Kenya posing as a sports agent. His report, broadcast on German television as well as radio, created a firestorm of controversy within Athletics Kenya. World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President John Fahey visited Kenya and asked the sports officials to investigate the matter.
One of the athletes implicated Mathew Kisorio, has received a two-year suspension. As a result of the broadcast Athletics Kenya’s Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat announced an ultimatum on October 17th that all foreign coaches working in Kenya without permits must leave the country in one week’s time. The announcement came one week after the report aired.
Christopher Kelsall: Since we last spoke, shortly after your visit where you went to Kenya and posed as a sports agent, have you found any new information about the supposed doping going on in Kenya?
Hajo Seppelt: Yes, we have found more information about several doping cases. For example, we had heard from the marathon runner Wilson Erupe Loyanae’s anti-doping violation before the case had been published officially by the IAAF. And we know from another test result from a female runner. She has won a very important competition in Kenya, but apparently this performance was manipulated. I am sure this case will attract big attention in Kenya. Also because the responsible national federation Athletics Kenya and particularly its president Isaiah Kiplagat blame others for doping; although Kenya (apparently) has a huge doping problem with it in running. I don’t understand why such people who repeatedly deny this problem are representing a nation or a whole continent in the international federation. This is not good for the credibility of IAAF.
Wilson Loyanae ran the Seoul Marathon in 2012 in the time of 2:05:37.
1. Wilson Loyanae, KEN 2:05:37
2. James Kipsang Kwambai, KEN 2:06:03
3. Eliud Kiptanui, KEN 2:06:44
4. Philip Kimutai Sanga, KEN 2:06:51
5. Felix Kipkemboy Keny, KEN 2:07:31
6. Charles Munyeki Kiama, KEN 2:07:41
7. Jairus Ondora Chanchaima, KEN 2:07:43
8. Yonas Kifle, ERI 2:08:51
9. William Chebon Chebor, KEN 2:10:27
10. Edwin Kangogo Kimaiyo, KEN 2:10:29
CK: Do you have any idea why the Kenyan Olympic trials were held in Oregon before the London Games?
HS: So far as I know this was caused by fact that Athletics Kenya had commitments with one or more companies who supported them financially. But this is only what I heard. I believe, that National Olympic Committee president (NOC) Kipchoge Keino was not happy with this. It is really very unusual that a country holds its trials far away from home.
CK: Do you know how WADA conducted their activity while in Kenya for the out-of-competition testing that went on recently? Did they make unannounced visits at random hours, like they do in North America and Europe?
HS: So far as I know – I have no confirmed information about whether it is of the same standard as exists in Europe because it is simply not possible yet. It is quite complicated to find athletes in small villages in Kenya because a whereabouts system like we know it from Europe and North America does not exist. So it is unrealistic that DCO’s show up suddenly in your house for unannounced testing. But at least regarding blood tests, we can have progress in the near future: a sort of “mobile doping analysis lab”, which has been constructed in Japan, could be used in Kenya. So the time frames in which fresh blood samples have to be analysed according to the WADA rules would be accomplished.
CK: What do you think of the recent named Kenyan dopers, from the latest WADA rounds of testing? Not just Wilson Erupe Loyanae, but also Moses Kiptoo Kurgat and Nixon Kiplagat Cherutich. Do you think they are sacrificial lambs to appease those who suspect the East Africans?
HS: Might be. I wonder what would happen if a regular and independent doping control system were to be put in place in countries like Kenya. For this case, I would expect many more positive tests. But this does not mean that the situation is absolutely worse than in other countries. Nevertheless and after all the incredible performances of Kenyan runners, it was high time for in-depth research. I have understood the complexity of the problem much better when we interviewed the positive tested Matthew Kisorio. He admitted what he did and his testimonial was courageous. I would not put the fingers mainly on the athletes. Often they earn much more respect from the audience than officials like Kiplagat. Kisorio’s statements demonstrated very clearly the poor social situation of apparently a huge number of Kenyan athletes. They need to have success in major events in order to earn money and to help to improve the living conditions of themselves and their families. From this point of view, I can understand why there is obviously a big temptation to dope in order to achieve high performances. The athletes are not only cheaters but also victims of the circumstances.
CK: How has Kisorio’s admission helped out the apparent deep issue of doping?
HS: Kisorio helped with his statements to create a necessary dialogue about the circumstances of high-performance sports in some African countries. Without his interview in ARD German TV, the necessary steps to clean up athletics in Kenya would not have been taken. Kisorio helped much more than the Kenyan nation or Athletics Kenya did. My impression is that Kiplagat tried to cover up doping in Kenya. And he threatened us. Last time in Nairobi when we had a shooting with an official Kenyan media credential, he saw us filming from a public ground the AK headquarters. He told my colleague that he would be brought into prison immediately if he does not stop the shooting. And I remember very well that Kiplagat wanted to kick out foreign coaches and agents and journalists from Kenya. Does he think, he is god? I have the impression, that his behaviour is pure populism and doesn’t help at all to solve the problem.
CK: Should Kisorio fear reprisals from fellow athletes or the Kenyan Federation for his actions? Or is this something most of the athletes want to see happen?
HS: When he admitted doping and explained the social circumstances to us he feared negative reactions from his entourage or the public. But I have no information that this happened and I hope that I am right. But again, I think it would have been much better if AK honours the courage of athletes like Kisorio and supports the idea of more transparency. But this seems not to be Kiplagat’s interest.
CK: Kiplagat announced an edict to have all non-certified coaches (with Athletics Kenya) to leave the country by a certain time. Did this drive certification in the country or did many coaches leave?
HS: I have no information about that. Kiplagat is right when he says that the doping problem has also been caused by the influence of foreign people. But this is not the only reason. Local people like coaches and – like Kisorio described it – doctors are also seeking their financial advantage. According to Kisorio particularly doctors play a dark role in doping. So Kiplagat’s “foreign” theory distracts from this obvious situation. And what really makes me wonder: what kind of understanding of justice and political processes is it, when Kiplagat demands to expel people based on his personal allegations?
CK: What about Ethiopia and Jamaica, two other top-level countries with no out of competition testing?
HS: I don’t know the situation in Ethiopia. It would surprise me if this poor country has the financial power to establish an effective doping control system. Regarding Jamaica: Due to the international criticism, the Jamaican authorities have improved at least the structures of their anti-doping system. But I have no information if this really works in an appropriate way. The last time when I have been there was 2009 and at that time the doping control system was poor.
CK: What do you see happening next? Have we heard all of the positive results from the latest round of testing?
HS: As mentioned, I have heard from more than only the three adverse analytical findings. I don’t think that the responsible federations and authorities have realised the whole extent of the doping problem as well as the social circumstances in Kenya but also in other countries in Africa. For many years the Kenyan federation obviously did not take any action to clean up athletics. So the best for athletics in Kenya and new credibility would be that Kiplagat steps down. It’s simply the best.