By Omulo Okoth
Are Kenyan athletes involved in dope abuse? Much as we (Kenyans) argue to the contrary, many people out there are convinced that something is the matter with our athletes.
Questions have stuck in the minds of the sporting world since the story hit European media last May to the effect that doping is prevalent among Kenyan athletes.
Kenyan athletes have been on the global radar ever since.
While some interviews were conducted surreptitiously, complete with hidden cameras, with admission by a Kenyan doctor that he can administer designer drug EPO, Mathew Kisorio’s own confession to the same television channel did not help matters. He gave a comprehensive blow-by-blow interview to a German national broadcaster ARD after failing an in-competition test during the National Championships in June.
Consequently, by the time of the last Olympic Games in London, the global attention was very much on Kenya for reasons that emanated from the ARD interviews. Kenyan athletics authorities denied those allegations, but said they would initiate investigations.
Not much has since been heard although they don’t have to shout when investigations are ongoing. I hope they appreciate the concern by the world of sport about Kenya, whose athletes have dominated middle and distance running.
They heard the rumours and innuendo that hovered over Team Kenya in London’s Olympic Village, with claims that some races were literally thrown away, ostensibly to escape mandatory doping tests.
If investigations were initiated after the reports went on air last May, a lot of ground should have been covered by now.
I expect authorities, both Athletics Kenya and National Olympic Committee of Kenya, to give an up-date on whatever progress has been made.
It is in light of these suspicions that the visit by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President John Fahey to Kenya’s Minister for Youth and Sports Ababu Namwamba on Friday was timely.
Usually punctuated with a press conference where good things are said about the host nation, I am sure Mr Fahey and the Minister discussed a lot more in camera.
Doping abuse is criminal. It is unsporting. It is subterfuge. We have a huge pool of athletes and, naturally, there are bound to be black sheep among them. But they cannot soil the image of the thousands who have trained hard to earn honest achievements, who have won Olympic and World titles by training hard.
Kenya cannot afford to go the Tour de France way, a cycling competition marred by claims of doping infamy.
Athletics camps in the Rift Valley Province have been fingered for perpetrating this subterfuge to produce designer champions. In one of the reports, an athlete confessed to having been lured to use these drugs. It mentions a well-known European with deep connections in the Rift Valley.
These are among the areas that I expect officials to update the public on, with the recent performance at the Olympics still the subject of huge speculation.
Kenyan Police can lend a hand in this exercise because their efficiency is legendary.
It would also be in the best interest of the Police because they run one of the star-studded athletics clubs, with a stellar cast in the middle and distance races.
The Minister should ban for life any official confirmed to have influenced athletes to abuse drugs. And managers who are running camps suspected of abetting this crime should be kicked out of the country and their immigration status revoked permanently and their accomplices sanctioned.
Drug abuse must be condemned in the strongest possible terms given the long-term side effects on victims. Perpetrators of doping in the sporting world are as bad as their counterparts who run drug rings.
— The writer is The Standard Sports Editor