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Mark Otieno: It has not been easy after doping claim

Mark Otieno, 100m sprinter (left) and Stephanie Odhiambo 100m sprinter in Nairobi on Friday, Feb 28, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Former 100m national record holder Mark Otieno has blamed his anti-doping violation positive test result on a contaminated nutritional supplement as he spoke for the first time after being ejected out of 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The sprinter is also hoping the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) will be fair to him when they give their verdict on whether he will serve the standard four-year ban or not.

Speaking  to Carol Radull on her  YouTube channel on Thursday night, an emotional  Otieno, who was flanked by his Stephanie spoke of how his Olympics dream was shattered just hours before he could take on the track in Tokyo.

He was due to make his long awaited debut at the Olympics last year, but was denied the opportunity after failing the test following an adverse analytical finding for anabolic androgenic steroid in his urine sample and was then provisionally suspended.

“We had to take sample of the supplement I was using to a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab thus confirming my suspicions that one of the nutritional supplements I was using was contaminated with an undisclosed banned substance,” Otieno said.

Otieno said he had a rough time following the incident that also forced him to take unpaid leave to concentrate on the fight to clear his name.

“I worked so hard in training, travelled around the world to look for qualification time prior to the National Trials, and eventually got it. Previously I had been tested for seven years, and I have never violated the anti-doping rules, the incident really depressed me and my family,” he said.

Mark Otieno in 100mts men category during trials for Tokyo olympic games at Kasarani stadium, June 17, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

He added: “I have stayed committed to the disciplinary process I was put under, even as I continue to pursue the avenues to clear my name and compete again.”

The 28-year-old admits many athletes are using the same supplement and it’s just a matter of time before they were netted for violation.

“The supplement is in the market and it’s being used by athletes unknowingly, and all of its ingredients are not labelled, it’s a matter of time before the athletes are sanctioned for violation,” he said.

The sprinter says for seven years, he was subjected to anti-doping tests and never failed a single test, and has been been cautious on whatever he takes even when he contacted Covid-19 in 2020, he never took any medication for fear of taking contaminated medication.

“Mark was down with Covid, but he insisted on taking warm water only for fear of consuming drugs that might have prohibited substances, he was very careful about what gets into his body,” his wife Stephanie said.

Otieno narrated how difficult it was when he read an email about his suspension just few hours before he could take to the track.

“I was called by Team Kenya doctor and summoned to their room at the Olympic Village. I found about five people there and kept wondering what was wrong but few minutes late I received an email informing me about the positive test. I thought was a mistake because I was confident I had never used any prohibited substances,” he said.

“I then called my coach Andrew and informed him that I have been suspended and he was surprised. At that moment I could not reach my wife as she was asleep back in Kenya, but the coach managed to get hold of her and she was shocked as well,” recalled Otieno.

His attempt to appeal and be allowed to compete felt on deaf eyes and his fears were finally confirmed two hours to the 100m preliminaries when the startlist came out without his name.

“Immediately I started receiving messages inquiring why I’m not on the list. After few hours the story was allover the media,” he said.

The AIU and Anti-doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) has maintained that it is the athlete’s responsibility to ensure no prohibited substance enters their body.

According to AIU, athletes are responsible for knowing what substances and methods are considered banned on the prohibited list.

The presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete’s sample, or the use of a prohibited substance constitutes a doping offence.

Otieno’s journey to Tokyo Olympics saw him travel overseas to try and get the qualification time with no success, but he finally notched the time at Kenya Olympics Trials at Kasarani Stadium in June last year ahead of the games that started in July.

Otieno, alongside the current 100m Africa record holder Ferdinand Omanyala hit Olympics qualifying time, in a race that highlighted the high octane trials.

Omanyala clocked 10.02 with Otieno qualifying in 10.05.

“I was so tense when we went for the final. I knew it was my last chance and I was prepared for any results and I am grateful, I managed to run 10.05 seconds. I could not believe it. It was a great performance for me,” said Otieno who is known for his strong Christian values that saw him turn down sponsorship deals that he believed were against his religion.

In 2015 he clocked a hand-timed 10.1 to finish second in the Kenyan trials for the World Championships in Beijing and the following year he lowered his official best to 10.39 to finish second at the Kenyan Championships.

Otieno made his international breakthrough in 2017.

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