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Houston Nairobi, we have a problem.

It appears that the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) made the right decision to put Kenya on the Category-A doping watch list. The country has the most athletes banned in the entire world, save for Russia, which has a blanket ban due to proven systematic doping. Between 60 and 70 athletes are currently suspended in the sport of athletics alone. You can add two more Kenyans to the list as of today. When will it end?

Tampering and Triamcinolone

After extensive investigations, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), has provisionally suspended two Kenyan marathoners – Diana Kipyokei and Betty Wilson Lempus. The AIU has charged them with various breaches of the World Athletics Anti-doping Rules (ADR). These alleged anti-doping rule violations stem from probes into the information provided by the athletes to explain Adverse Analytical Findings (AAF) for metabolites of triamcinolone acetonide in samples they provided during in-competition tests in 2021.

Both athletes were questioned about their AAF, and their respective explanations (including supporting documentation) were subjected to a detailed investigation by the AIU, with vital assistance from the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).

Ultimately, the AIU’s findings led to the charges being announced today.

The AAF are part of a growing trend with the usage of triamcinolone, which is a glucocorticoid used to treat skin diseases, allergies, rheumatic disorders, and asthma, as well as COPD.

Performances

The 28-year-old Kipyokei has run the marathon as fast as 2:22:06, which she accomplished in 2020 at the Istanbul Marathon. She has also run 2:22:07 at the marathon in Ljubljana, Slovakia in 2019. She is the winner of the 2021 B.A.A. Boston Marathon, which she finished in the time of 2:24:45.

Lempus clocked a personal best in 2018 with her Shanghai performance of 2:23:40. The 29-year-old in May last year clocked a 2:24:16 in Prague. One red flag moment may be her jump from being a 1:12 to 1:14 half-marathon runner in 2015 and 2016 and a 1:09 – 1:10 after that, to becoming a world-class performer at 1:05:46 during the 2021 Paris Half Marathon.

Solution

If World Athletics is not interested in giving Athletics Kenya a blanket ban (until further notice), the other more complex fix would be to begin to institute a punishment of eight years on the first go as well as removing an athlete’s entire history from the record books once both A and B samples test positive and an appeal is heard.

Although seeking the return of prize money is a novel concept, acquiring the money back is likely near impossible. Additionally, any coach that has athletes that test positive for performance-enhancing drugs three times should be banned. Perhaps agents who have athletes test positive multiple times should serve a suspension or pay a fine.

Big race events could stop inviting Kenyan athletes to their races until they learn to clean up their act. This will hit them where it hurts, as they are taking money out of the pockets of clean athletes every time that they cheat.

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