Amina: Repeated falsehoods will not help war on drug cheats

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohamed [photo courtesy]

Why the government is fighting ‘international conspiracy’ out to tarnish Kenyan athletes good name

Sports Ministry, Athletics Kenya and National Olympics Committee unite in condemning allegations of systematic doping ahead of 2020 Tokyo Games.

Kenya’s Sports Ministry say they are taking seriously allegations of systematic doping in the country.

This follows a recent email by a German journalist Christian Rohde from German Television Network, ZDF, to the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) seeking their comment on allegations the agency and Athletics Kenya (AK) are engaged in a systematic cover-up of doping cases.

This even as a World Anti-Doping Agency report in 2018, following a two-year study, concluded there was no signs of Kenya operating an “institutionalised” doping system.

The report released on September 27, 2018 said: “The doping practices of Kenyan athletes are unsophisticated, opportunistic, and uncoordinated.”

It added: “Doping in Kenya is drastically different from other doping structures discovered elsewhere in the world.”

With the claims appearing to target two of Kenya’s institutions tasked with policing the vice -AK and ADAK- despite clearance by the global watchdog, the Sports Ministry under the leadership of Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina is not taking the allegations lying down.

Once the email from Rohde was brought to its attention, the Sports Ministry enlisted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations especially that the allegations were coming up just before a major international competition.

The investigations have since led to the arrest of an individual the ministry termed as an “alleged informant.”

A statement signed by Amina following the arrest and arraignment in court said: “The ‘alleged informant’ was arrested and found in possession of several copies of forged letters supposedly sent from ADAK and Athletics Kenya (AK).

“He was also found in possession of three laptops and several mobile phones, which have been confiscated for analysis. This individual was charged with 12 counts of forgery and arraigned before a Court of Law this morning (Monday) for plea taking.”

The statement added: “The Criminal Justice System is now seized of this matter and we will therefore not further delve into the details.”

Of concern to the Kenyan authorities, however, is why the unsavoury reports of systematic or widespread doping only arise whenever the country is about to participate in a major international sporting event such as the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

According to the Sports Ministry, the latest allegations follow a well-beaten path dating back to just before the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the subsequent London 2012 Games.

And just a month to the Rio 2016 Olympics, a respected investigative journalist, Hans-Joachim Seppelt of ARD, a State German TV and radio broadcasting network aired a documentary titled, ‘The Doping Secret: The Dark Side of Athletics’ alleging widespread doping and eventual cover up in Kenya.

AK Chairman Barnabas Korir during press briefing of the 17th edition of the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon in Nairobi on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Seppelt, had reportedly, spent time undercover in Kenya posing as a sports agent.

The ‘expose’ prompted World Athletics (then IAAF) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to help Kenya draft and enact laws to make the country compliant with the global code against drug-cheats.

Kenya enacted the Anti-Doping Act 2016, which established the ADAK. However, there have been subsequent allegations before the London 2017 and Doha 2019 World Championships despite WADA clearing Kenya, of institutionalised cover-up.

The latest allegations have thus baffled the Sports Ministry with CS Amina noting that, “Kenya has served on the WADA Foundation Board and collaborated with WADA to align our laws to international standards, anti-doping education, comparative anti-doping efficiency systems, athlete education, technological advancement for results management and many other core areas necessary to build an effective anti-doping ecosystem.”

Understandably, Kenya will feel slighted especially with AK and ADAK doubling their efforts to tighten the noose on drug cheats that have led to the suspension of several athletes for Anti-Doping Rule Violation related offences.

Barnaba Korir, the Executive committee member and Chairman of Youth Development Programme at Athletics Kenya described the allegations as “unfair to Kenya”.

“Peddling falsehoods is not the way to wedge a war against drug-cheats,” Korir told Standard Sports.

“Even if you wanted to write an expose, the minimum you could do is base it on credible documents not fake ones. It is disappointing and defeats the efforts to clean up the sport when unscrupulous people go at great lengths to manufacture documents just to earn a living without caring about the reputation of the other clean Kenyan clean athletes,” he added.

NOCK President Paul Tergat (right) and Ag Secretary General NOCK Francis Mutuku during a press conference at NOCK Nairobi office. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Olympics Kenya President and former Olympian Paul Tergat urged the government to continue with its support of AK and ADAK in their efforts to clamp down on drug cheats.

“The National Olympic Committee- Kenya (Olympics Kenya) expresses its total solidarity with the Government of Kenya, through the Ministry of Sports, for its recent swift and unequivocal action to counter an intended unwarranted attack on the country through unfounded allegations by one, Christian Rohde of German Television Network, ZDF, about systematic cover-up of doping cases among Kenyans,” Tergat remarked in a statement.

He added: “We salute this effort to protect our hard working and clean athletes preparing to carry out national duty in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and other global competitions ahead.”

With the help of Athletics Integrity Unit, Kenya hosts a WADA-approved drug-testing laboratory in Nairobi that focuses on blood analyses and doping tests.

Previously, blood samples taken from Kenyan athletes had to be flown to South Africa or Europe to be tested at an approved lab.

Sports CS Amina said Kenya will not relent in the fight against doping and would pursue legal avenues to eliminate falsehoods that threaten to derail the war against drug cheats.

“We have co-operated with WADA and Athletics Integrity Unit while also enabling ADAK to train athletes on dangers of doping. And so, repeated falsehoods cannot be a weapon against drug cheats,” CS Amina said.

What cannot be gainsaid is the fact that since 2012, cases of convicted drug cheats in Kenyan athletics have spiked to worrying levels, placing the country on World Athletics doping watch list since 2017 and therefore, the fight to eradicate the vice is far from being won.

However, in March, distance runner Florence Jepkosgei Chepsoi, who finished second at the 2019 Jakarta Marathon, was sentenced to one year of community service after she was found guilty of presenting false documents and lying to the Kenyan anti-doping agency at a hearing to become the first athlete in Kenya to be convicted of a doping offence in a criminal court.

This presented a notable milestone in authorities’ efforts to combat doping with rulings for four other similar cases expected to be delivered in the coming days.