Is Kenya staring at a possible ban? Wada and AIU will hold a meeting today to discuss the fate of Kenyan athletics

Kenya's Lawrence Cherono after winning the 2018 Amsterdam Marathon. He is among the athletes who have been suspended. [File, Standard]

Kenya is on the brink of being kicked out of international athletics competitions over rising doping cases among her athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) will hold a meeting tomorrow in Monaco to discuss Kenyan athletics’ fate. At the moment, social media is awash with expectations on the decision of AIU and Wada.

Kenya is among seven countries deemed a ‘Category A’ federation - the highest doping risk - by the AIU, meaning athletes from the countries have to undergo at least three tests in the 10 months prior to a major event to be able to compete there.

Athletics Kenya (AK) has been conducting anti-doping seminars across the country but their efforts seem to land on deaf ears.

On Monday, Barnaba Koirir, the AK youth development chairman, shared on social media: “We might this Friday (tomorrow) say goodbye to athletics for a while. People think that this is a joke....We are doing everything possible to survive. A prayer can be done especially for the clean athletes. The rogue athletes have killed our dreams. The sad reality of the scam has finally emerged. It is not pleasant.”

Korir said the trend is worrying. “If we keep quiet, we will soon be kicked out of World Athletics. At the moment, no one will take the risk of covering up for any athlete. We were told in May to brace ourselves for whatever will happen.

“We cannot just fear; we should be scared. There is demand from the international body that Kenya should be kicked out. Other countries are questioning why action has not been taken. If it happens, it will take a long time for us to come back. If athletics is banned, it means all other federations will not compete at the Olympic Games,” said Korir.

There have been calls from major stakeholders for President Ruto to intervene in the matter.

A source at AK said it was prudent for the President to make a commitment before global bodies.

“Now that our President is out of the country, I think the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua can help the situation by talking to AIU and Wada. Otherwise we can be banned,” said the source.

So far, more than 200 athletes have failed doping tests, with the highest number including high profile athletes testing positive for banned substances netted this year.

Should Kenya get suspended, the nation stands to lose more than Sh10 billion in shoe contracts, appearance fees, prize money and other undisclosed endorsements from races across the globe. 

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba has vowed to bring proposals to amend Kenya’s laws to criminalise doping.

“We are going to criminalise doping to levels you cannot imagine. We are going to be very, very harsh. As a government, we are going to make doping very expensive - to elevate doping substances to the same level as hard drugs,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Aron Cheruiyot is proposing stringent measures to curb doping menace and ensure Kenyans compete clean.

“Doping is one of the biggest issues that the new Cabinet Secretary must deal with. It’s sad that our reputation as an athletics powerhouse has been ruined. We will all the necessary to curb this vice,” said Cheruiyot.

Apart from the huge presence of Erythropoietin (EPO) among Kenyan athletes, there is also a steady rise of triamcinolone acetonide. This is a steroid which helps reduce weight and increases endurance and AIU has nabbed more than 10 Kenyans who have tested positive for it since last year.

There is also the whereabouts issue. One of the questions in Kenya, however, is whether the increased scrutiny is catching genuine cheats or clean athletes.

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