By Omulo Okoth
The alleged systematic doping among elite Kenyan athletes is becoming murkier by the day.
As the spectre of doping continues to soil the image of Kenyan athletics excellence, fresh indications abound of officials having been warned much earlier.
A report by a global anti-doping agency suggests that Athletics Kenya were informed of the increasing doping abuse by Kenyan elite athletes two years ago.
Only last week, David Okeyo, the Secretary General of Athletics Kenya (AK), confirmed that Salome Jerono Biwott, who won the women’s title at the Standard Chartered Nairobi International Marathon last year in 2:26:41, and Jynocel Basweti Onyancha, who ran in the 23rd Marathon International De Cullacan in Mexico on Jan. 22, will serve a suspension of two years each for doping offences.
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Biwott has been sanctioned with effect from January 25, 2013 until January 25, 2015, AK Okeyo said.
Onyancha has been sanctioned with effect from July 5, 2012 until July 5, 2014. During the sanction period they will not be allowed to participate in any track and field including road races locally and internationally.
On February 23, AK confirmed three other runners had been sanctioned for doping offenses.
Wilson Erupe Loyanae and Nixon Kiplagat Cherutich are serving a suspension of two years each with Moses Kiptoo Kurgat sanctioned for a year after both A and B samples returned positive results for proscribed substance abuse.
Erupe tested positive for EPO, or erythropoietin, in an out-of- competition test conducted last year, the first Kenyan athlete to be caught using the banned drug hormone, which increases the red blood cell count.
Kiplagat tested positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone, after competing in a race in Mexico. Francis Kibiwott, who represented Kenya at the 2007 World Half Marathon in Udine, Italy, finishing 45th, was pardoned after his case was positively reviewed by the medical commission of world body, IAAF.
A German television broadcaster claimed last year that there is widespread doping among Kenyan elite athletes, an allegation that was roundly denied and denounced by Kenya’s athletics chiefs.
While the AK officials keep procrastinating over the issue, sometimes feigning ignorance, sometimes saying they have taken the fight a notch higher by engaging Government agencies ostensibly because they don’t have the muscle to conduct investigations, the global agency forwarded a dossier to AK two years ago raising the red flag.
But AK President Isaiah Kiplagat, has denied knowledge of the dossier.
World Anti-Doping Agency (WDA) President, John Fahey, visited Kenya last December following reports by the German national broadcaster on doping in Kenya.
The details of the deliberations with the Government and sports officials were not disclosed beyond the officialise “we are conducting routine discussions given Kenya’s command of global sport.”
Kenya and Norwegian Olympics bodies held a seminar on doping around the same time.
“Kenya is a great sporting nation and that’s the reason we are here to strengthen the anti-doping programme,”said Anders Solheim, the Chief Executive Officer, Norway anti-Doping Agency.
Insiders, however, held the view that something was amiss during the London Olympics in which some races were alleged to have been deliberately lost, to evade strict doping tests that are mandatory for medallists at the Games.
“We urge Athletics Kenya to take stern action and punish all those named in this report so as to serve as a strong deterrent to any athlete or sportsman who may be influenced in future to involve himself or herself in this illegal activity,” said the report.
The agency has specifically cited two foreigners, one of them Kenyan-born, and alleges they are involved in secretive and illegal activities and are only using their training camp that they run together as a conduit to lure more unsuspecting athletes to using performance enhancing drugs.
The two have declined to comment and have threatened to take legal action against those making the allegations.
One athlete making these allegations has sworn an affidavit dated October 14, 2010 in which he makes serious incriminating allegations against one of the persons cited by the global agency.
The global agency says in its report that they have investigated the two persons and established that they administer performance enhancing substances on athletes.
But Kiplagat denied knowledge of the investigations by the global agency and even that they have been urged to investigate the persons. He also denied having received any sworn affidavit by any athlete.
One of the athletes interviewed confessed to having been given “some small white, unlabelled pills” that they explained were from a European country.
“He was told the pills would ease joint pains after each training session, but would be harmless.
“This witness explained to us that he was featuring in a race in the UK one day but fell sick and withdrew,” says the report. “His manager suggested that he sees a doctor at a small clinic in south London who diagnosed fatigue and general muscle exhaustion.
“The doctor put him under observation you enable him undergo some tests. But just before he went into the lab he called his coach who was in England on some private business.
“The coach advised him never to agree to any hospital tests by doctors without his authority. He suspected something was amiss when the coach drove over to the clinic to forcefully remove him from the clinic.” A few days later, he visited another doctor again in London who told him he suspected he was being affected by some powerful muscle exciting drugs but the doctor was not sure which.
The doctor advised him to undergo some more tests but he refused, remembering the violent reaction from the coach days earlier. He did not tell the doctor he was an athlete and he hurriedly left the clinic.