© Copyright – 2022 – Athletics Illustrated

“Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that’s far too fleet.”

— Neil Peart.

When will it end?

In 2016, the small country of Kenya (53 million) was put on the Category-A watch list for doping by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA). Since then, and especially as of late, the positive doping tests, blood anomalies, tampering charges and whereabouts failures have led to a spate of suspensions. Many athletes have appealled the provisional suspensions, and in almost all of the cases, the defendant was found guilty by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Kenya and its athletes were once held in awe by everyone else in the world. They were studied by scientists to find out why they were better. Nothing. Maybe, high bunched calf muscles or a slightly longer lower leg but nothing else stood out. They were ordinary people, achieving extraordinary results. They won nearly everything.

The scientists found next to nothing and the Kenyans themselves said that it’s about hard work, eating well, and living at altitude. Observers agreed and found that the simple lifestyle required many, especially in the Rift Valley, to walk or run long distances to school, developing red blood cells at high altitudes for lifelong aerobic fitness. It is indeed a recipe for success. But one piece of the puzzle is missing: desperation.

“Never underestimate the beast that lies within a man’s heart.”

— unknown.

It is also about the prize money. A $10,000 USD payday from winning a mid-level marathon is like earning two years’ salary for a person working on a farm (average). The unemployment rate is estimated at 14 per cent. To win a major marathon, and or break a course record earns the athlete a fortune. Endorsement contracts and appearance fees from repeated wins is community changing in the Northeast African nation.

Doping is worth the risk. The chance of the authorities taking back money from a Kenyan, who won it when perhaps someone behind them was clean is low. The chance of getting caught, until lately has been low. It’s a high-risk — high-reward scenario — a gamble that can set up a family for years.

Agnes Tirop was brutally murdered for the property she bought through her race earnings.

It is about desperation.

James Baldwin wrote, “the most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

On Tuesday, October 18 two more Kenyan athletes were reported to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The Athletics Integrity Unit provisionally suspended Ibrahim Mukunga Wachira and Kenneth Kiprop Renju.

Ayumba Ayodi of the Nation publication in Kenya wrote, “Mukunga, who won a half marathon race in Estonia in socks in 2017, has been suspended for the use of prohibited norandrosterone, while the national 10,000m champion Renju got nabbed for the use of methasterone.”

Both are anabolic steroids.

In socks no less; nothing to lose, not even shoes.

“Kipyokei and Lempus’ suspension came three days after Kenyan marathon runners Mark Kangogo and Philemon Kacheran were banned for doping.

Kacheran, who was been banned for three years on Monday last week, was hounded out from Team Kenya that was already in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games held July 28 to August 8 in the British second capital city.

Kacheran’s ban came six days after compatriot Lawrence Cherono, the 2019 Chicago and Boston marathon champion, was prevented from competing in the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, also for a doping offence.”