Strict conditions in place as Budapest trials start at Nyayo today

Athletes compete in men's 3000m steeplechase during the National Athletics Championships at Nyayo Stadium last month. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The national trials for the 2023 Budapest World Championships happening today and tomorrow at the Nyayo Stadium are being staged under strict conditions.

Participation in the national event is strictly by invitation, leaving limited or no room for uninvited athletes.

In what will trigger a blistering competition for slots to Budapest, Athletics Kenya (AK) earlier this week said the first two athletes to cross the finish line at the trials will automatically qualify to be listed in Kenya's team to the World Championships.

Yesterday, AK explained why only invited athletes would take part in the national trials.

It emerged that the country's doping menace was to blame for the strict conditions.

Under the strict conditions, athletes taking part in today's and tomorrow's races have undergone at least one doping test before the national trials and must have been tested three times before the Budapest World Championships set for August 19 to 27.

Kenya has been in Category A on the list of countries on watch for anti-doping violations since 2016.

AK Nairobi chairman Barnaba Korir said yesterday, hours before today's trials that the major reason for the strict conditions was because of the World Athletics guidelines that subject countries on Category A to harsher rules as it curbs doping.

"The reason for restricting the trials to invite-only is because Kenya is on the (World Anti-Doping Agency - WADA) watch list and this requires that we follow restrictions imposed on countries in Category A," Korir said.

Kamar Etiang was turned away for failing to meet similar conditions in 2021, ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Through the strict conditions for the World Championships trials, Kenya appears to be taking steps to avoid embarrassing situations that have previously seen some athletes being provisionally suspended during global shows. One athlete was forced to return home during the World Championships in Oregon and another at the 2020 Olympic Games.

"The main reason is that we have had many doping cases. For us to continue to be allowed to compete in international championships or any World Athletics event, there are regulations that comprise three doping tests.

"Athletes should have undergone at least one out-of-competition test which is compulsory, to enter the trials. You must have been tested if you wanted to qualify. The other tests will be done between now and the World Championships. Even if they (athletes) compete in the trials and have not met the anti-doping measures, they will not be selected to compete at the World Championships," the AK official said.

The first event today will be the men's 10,000m final at 1pm, which will be preceded by officials' briefing from 11am.

The conditions for the trials also indicate that athletes who might benefit from a wild card must have taken part in the competition.

"All invited athletes must participate to be selected (including wild card holders). All Athletes will be required to make a commitment upon selection by signing a commitment form," conditions issued earlier this week read in part.

AK had also issued the criteria under which Kenya's team, which will be announced tomorrow will be selected.

The federation said, "The first 2 athletes to cross the finish line will automatically be selected provided they have qualified as per the World Athletics Entry Standards. The athletes who wish to double will be allowed to do so, however, the decision to double at the World Championships will be a preserve of the selection panel."

Mid last month, the country named a marathon team for Budapest but bigwigs who had been earlier tipped to fly Kenya's flag were conspicuously missing.

Rosemary Wanjiru, the reigning Tokyo Marathon champion and Timothy Ronoh - the runner-up at the NN Rotterdam Marathon in April this year are among long-distance athletes in the women's and men's marathon teams respectively.

Apart from Ronoh, the men's team comprises Milano Marathon 2022 winner, Titus Kipruto and Joshua Belet, a Hamburg Marathon runner-up. Michael Githae and Bethwell Kibet are on the reserve team.

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