© Copyright – 2022 – Athletics Illustrated
Kenya is in a major doping crisis and it needs to end now. World Athletics needs to suspend Kenya for the foreseeable future.
The rate of doping positives is off the charts; thirty athletes have been suspended during 2022 alone.
Imagine if 30 Canadian, British, Australian, or American athletes were suspended in a 10-month stretch. For many countries, the athletics program would be decimated. Currently, there are approximately 70 athletes from Kenya serving suspensions for reasons related to anti-doping.
Elite athlete coordinators around the world are now thinking twice about assisting athletes from the African nation to race in their respective events. Why would an elite athlete coordinator take the risk? And the optics are not positive. Domestic athletes are now being favoured.
“Kenya is in the midst of a doping crisis. This year alone, there have been no less than 30 cases of doping which threatens to tarnish the good and shining image of Kenya as a sporting nation,” said Kenyan Sports Cabinet Secretary, Ababu Namwamba.
The shine is already off the apple.
The surge in doping has gone on for at least a decade. In 2014, marathon great Tegla Loroupe publicly blamed foreign coaches for the increase in positive tests. At that time, 30 athletes were suspended over the previous two years. The rate, since Kenya has been labelled a Category-A watch list country by the World Anti-doping Agency, has doubled.
Although she is correct that foreign coaches are an issue, so is the desire domestically to do whatever it takes to win including seeking shortcuts of one’s own free will. She also considers super shoes a form of cheating.
“I’m not a fan of that because there is no human energy,” she told BBC Sport.
“You are cheating, you are not a hero because you don’t use your own strength.
“You can have a faster shoe [but] what about those who cannot afford it, it’s almost like doping, for me there is no difference between doping and having a faster shoe.”
Loroupe ran the marathon as fast as 2:20:43 in Berlin in 1999, which was the world record at the time. She is also a five-time World Half Marathon gold medallist. The current marathon world record is 2:14:04, set by Kenyan Brigid Kosgei at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
Is she saying to the world that Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01:09 and Kosgei’s world records are both run by cheaters?
Perhaps she is protecting her own legacy as one of the all-time great marathon runners. The shoes are not going away.
Meanwhile, the drugs of choice are EPO, the red blood cell booster, nandrolone, the anabolic steroid, norandrosterone, a metabolite of nandrolone and the latest, a spate of triamcinolone acetonide, a steroid that increases endurance and helps to reduce weight.
Doping in Kenya is not new, but the rate of doping positives is. Is it due to an increase in doping or is it due to an increase in testing?
John Ngugi, the Seoul Olympic Games 5000m gold medallist was suspended for doping. Cosmos Ndeti won the 1993 to 1995 Boston Marathons, he too was suspended.
There are approximately 1500 samples tested per year, expect that number to double, and subsequently the number of doping positives to go up as well and that is what the Athletics Integrity Unit expects to do going forward.
The situation in Kenya will get worse before it gets better according to the head of the Athletics Integrity Unit Brett Clothier.
However, for now, and until the message is clear on the street and in the training camps, Kenya needs to be banned for the foreseeable future.
Doping is cheating, however, the manifestation results in other athletes missing out on prize money, potential endorsement contracts, and potential appearance fees — its theft.