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UPDATE Nov. 25, 1:55 PM PST: Kenya may be suspended according to news sources out of the country. This may happen after Tuesday, November Friday, November 29. Apparently, the Athletics Integrity Unit and World Athletics have already agreed to suspend the country for two years. Allegedly, an anonymous source with Athletics Kenya knows about the move to suspend the country.
Article published Wednesday, November 23:
First, it was former marathon great Tegla Laroupe and then Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba calling out fellow countrymen for doping, now it is Julius Yego, the javelin great.
Yego was speaking with BBC Sport Africa on November 22, when he said, “Whoever is indulging in these drugs should be ashamed of himself or herself. We should raise our voices and create awareness. If we do not speak up, then we are going [down] a very dangerous path. Then Kenya will be nowhere in athletics.”
Yego has won medals in the Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships and is a Rio Olympic Games silver medallist. His 92.72m personal best is a Kenyan and African record.
Namwamba, also entered into the fray saying, “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.”
The doping issue is not new
The doping issue is not new, it has gone on for over 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.
Namwamba, said more recently that Kenya will fight valiantly against the issue in the country — which he called a “serious war against doping. We are going to criminalize doping to levels you cannot imagine. We are going to be very, very harsh.”
“Kenya is a very proud sporting nation. We pride ourselves on being world-beaters, but we beat the world playing clean. I want all of us to say “no” to doping.”
“As a government, we are going to make doping very expensive to elevate doping substances to the same level as hard drugs,” he added. “If we catch you engaged in doping, we shall punish you severely.”
Lawrence Cherono 🇰🇪 has been provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) after testing positive for trimetazidine, a metabolic modulator.— oluwadare (@Track_Gazette) July 16, 2022
The Kenyan who has a PB of 2:03:04 in the marathon and is the 8th fastest man all-time will no longer compete in Eugene! pic.twitter.com/o0EdClOXGB
Florence Jepkosgei Chepsoi was the first Kenyan athlete to be found guilty in criminal court, last year. She received a one-year sentence of community service for faking documents as part of her defense to charges of doping. The conviction was announced by the Anti-Doping Association of Kenya (ADAK) on March 13, 2021.
One year of community service is probably not harsh enough.
Three years hence
Kenyan Sports Minister Amina Mohamed announced on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, that the ministry was working on legislation to make doping in sport a criminal offense worthy of potential jail time. Since that time more than 50 athletes have been suspended within the anti-doping laws, not criminal law.
At that time, Athletics Kenya took a step that promised to consider suspending or banning athletes as well as enablers including coaches, agents, and medical personnel.
AK suspended Rosa Associati and Volare Sports for six months pending investigations into doping. It was suggested then that would deal a blow to the careers of famous elite athletes under the Italian and Dutch stables on Monday. They continue to manage athletes today.
President Uhuru Kenyatta signed an amendment to the Kenyan anti-doping bill on New Year’s Day, 2021. The change would allow the legislation to function like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations do.
Kenyatta tweeted that the change “amends the Anti-Doping Act of 2016 to align Kenya’s legislative framework with the 2021 World Anti-Doping code and regulations.”
Approximately 30 Kenyans have been suspended since — so, the conclusion may be found that the legislation also did not work.
A decade hence
In 2012, former Athletics Kenya Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat gave a one-week ultimatum to all foreign athletics coaches working in Kenya without work permits to leave. Kiplagat claimed that the foreign coaches were responsible for the latest spate of drug use allegations, most notably from German journalist Hajo Seppelt. Seppelt acted undercover as a sports agent and reported that performance-enhancing drug use in Kenya is rampant by both Kenyans and foreign athletes training in the country.
It took until 2014 before Athletics Kenya admitted that they have a doping problem as indicated in a press release in Dec 2014:
NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — More Kenyans were caught doping beyond the names released by International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), Athletics Kenya (AK) President Isaiah Kiplagat confirmed Friday.
16 more cases have not been reported because the AK cannot track down the suspected athletes to hear their version of the story.
So far 32 cases of doping were reported and only 16 have been made public from Kenya.
“They are elusive. But we are doing our best to get hold of them. Most competed in Peru, Mexico, USA and Europe. A few cases were in Asia. The number is over 200. But only 32 were nabbed,” Kiplagat told reporters in Nairobi.
Doping is not new in Kenya. Despite the apparent efforts in making PED use a criminal offense, the number of cheaters being caught continues to rise each year. Shaming athletes publically, as Laroupe, Yego, Kiplagat, and Namwamba have done, seems to have no effect. The doping crisis in Kenya marches on unabated despite suspending non-registered foreign coaches or investigating agencies, such as Rosa and Volare.
Doping continues to be worth the risk due to the life-changing benefits of winning mid-level and top international road races, especially marathons. At the end of the day, the risk must be higher than the rewards, and until that pendulum swings, Kenyans will continue to dope unabated.