Last updated 5 years ago | By MUTWIRI MUTUOTA
After battling and prevailing over many a storm at the helm of Athletics Kenya (AK) in his 22 year reign, Isaiah Kiplagat faces the biggest test of his leadership as the country continues to reel from the stunning news signature female marathon star, Rita Jeptoo has failed a dope test.
Although the thrice Boston and twice Chicago marathon champion remains to be officially labelled a drug cheat since results of her B-Sample are yet to come in, her standing in the sport has exposed the nation to international scrutiny.
A taste of what is to come was evident at Sunday's New York Marathon where Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany ran to glory in close contests for the men and women crowns, but among the crowd, placard-waving protestors carried the "No to EPO" banners, the substance Jeptoo is widely reported to have tested positive from her A-Sample from an out of competition urine test on September 25.
Having dodged a number of bullets since the Beijing 2008 Olympics, AK has nowhere to hide after categorically denying the doping web had permeated the top echelons of the sport.
"Why are we being victimised 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," Kiplagat said last month in yet another spirited defence after a Government Anti-Doping Taskforce wrote in their report his federation was complicit in the fight against doping and the president censured for refusing to appear before it.
When RunBlogRun.com exclusively broke the Jeptoo story, with a straight face Kiplagat at first denied the federation had received notice from world body IAAF on Friday while all evidence pointed otherwise before the federation released a two-paragraph statement in the evening confirming the news.
The athlete was summoned to AK headquarters on Thursday while she had not travelled to New York to accept her World Marathon Majors Sh44m (USD500,000) cheque for winning the 2013/14 competition with organisers cancelling the award ceremony altogether.
Since last year, claims systematic doping among Kenyan athletes was rampant grew louder and louder, with former World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) president, John Fahey, even making a whistle stop visit to the country to press for investigation into the claims in November.
The damning evidence was there for all to see, 17 athletes tested positive for banned substances between 2013 and 14, the biggest spike in doping cases in the country's chequered history in her biggest sporting export to the world but Athletics Kenya (AK)'s top brass cried witch-hunt from the rooftops.
A damning documentary produced by Hajo Seppelt for German TV ARD in June last year sparked an extraordinary sequence of events that reached a boil with Jeptoo's bust.
Already, Rosa Associati her Italian based management has distanced themselves with the athlete denying any involvement with manager Federico Rosa and coach Claudio Berardelli stating Jeptoo should bear her cross.
Her on and off partner, Noah Busienei has already come out publicly to say his repeated warnings to her to stop engaging in the vice went unheeded and led to their eventual separation.
Earlier this year, AK decided to expel Berardelli and sanction Rosa following mounting claims the stable was engaged in the vice, but the Italian trainer returned back to the country raising eyebrows.
"Doping is becoming a menace; it has to be eliminated," the AK boss and IAAF Council Member said on Saturday at a local meeting in a case of locking the barn door after the horses have bolted.
"AK needs to explain to Kenyans and the world why we did not appear in front of the Anti-Doping Taskforce forced by the Government of the land since we are not above the law. We should also tell Kenyans why we have taken this matter lightly when WADA put us on the sport for increasing cases," retired athlete and chairman of AK Nairobi Branch, Barnabas Korir, an outspoken critic of Kiplagat said.