Kenya's athletes targeted unfairly for doping, says Isaiah Kiplagat

NAIROBI-- Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat came out fighting on Monday, saying his discipline is targeted unfairly and they have become victims of their international success on the track and road races.

Kiplagat, who was speaking in Eldoret, however, did not deny the concerns raised by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and investigative journalism reports, which have confirmed that the vice is rife in the country.

"Most of our elite athletes compete around the globe and are subjected to numerous tests, both while in competition and outside. The best athletes we have all turned out negative and the few who have been caught pleaded their innocence and ignorance and were punished. Let us not kill these athletes, because we know many win clean without any performance enhancement drugs in their systems," said Kiplagat.

Kenya will be sending a team of experts in doping to the Africa Anti-Doping Agency in Cape Town later this week for a tripartite meeting with Norway and China Anti doping Agencies for a meeting on how best to eradicate the vice.

However, the refusal by Kiplagat and the entire Athletics Kenya office to grand interviews to the ministerial appointed committee to look in the doping crisis has elicited mixed feeling on what the sport might be hiding. WADA has since suspended over 30 Kenya athletes caught in doping scandals since 2005.

Kenya's sports minister Hassan Wario made public a report of the Anti-Doping Task Force last week in which it said more needed to be done to curb the vice and limit the freedom with which foreign agents keen to make a kill out of the athletes have to interact and influence their performances in the country.

"Athletics Kenya has failed in enlightening athletes at the grassroots level making them easy targets for manipulation. Most of the athletes who have doped, and especially in sophisticated ways, were assisted by a professional doctor, coaches or agent," said Wario in his report.

"However, agents are the dark horses. The federation has also failed in encouraging local managers and agents to shun the vice and come up with counter measures."

But Kiplagat would not take that lying down.

"Why are we being victimized for our success? We have to appreciate it only that many reports have come out targeting athletes. Doping exists in every sport in Kenya but because athletics shine a lot by breaking world records every time, it has invited sharp focus," said Kiplagat.

Kiplagat, however, said it was important to suspend and ban those that help athletes dope and withdraw their practicing licenses.

"Our athletes must also learn to trust our local coaches and agents. Believe in them and they will not take you astray. If they do we have the power to ban and punish them. But most of you run to foreign agents and coaches and the results has seen you caught doping. Stop it and win clean," he said.