Changing the game: How Kenya is winning war against doping

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ATHLETICS Changing the game: How Kenya is winning war against doping

Abigael Wafula 17:46 - 21.12.2023

The fight against doping in 2023 has taken the right course, with the government setting aside Ksh 600 million every year to help.

In 2022, Kenya was on the verge of being banned by World Athletics due to the high rising numbers of doping cases, forcing the government to intervene.

Almost weekly, the Athletics Integrity Unit would announce at least one Kenyan athlete who had been banned for doping or provisionally suspended for the same.

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Sports CS Ababu Namwamba came to the rescue of clean athletes, writing to World Athletics and urging them not to ban the country. A ban would leave the athletes unable to compete globally, put the athletes’ plans for the 2024 Olympics in Paris at risk, and badly damage the country’s reputation in the sport.

“We will not allow unethical individuals to ruin Kenya’s reputation through doping. We must defeat doping and its perpetrators,” Namwamba said.

The government ensured that they would scale up its investigation and testing capacity to help fight the rising number of doping cases among athletes in the country.

The Sports CS further announced that the government has set aside Sh600 million every year to help in the fight against doping in the next five years. Namwamba said the increased funding will boost the Anti-doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) operations as well as intensify intelligence gathering.

Kenya set a target of 3,445 tests per year covering 37,900 athletes, and athlete support personnel before the end of 2023. According to the AIU, a total of 138 Kenyan athletes across all sports tested positive for prohibited substances between 2004 and August 2018.

However, despite the efforts from the government, Athletics Kenya, and ADAK, the country remains to be in Category A of the World Anti-Doping Agency list. This means its athletes must undergo at least three no-notice, out-of-competition urine, and blood tests before major events. There are currently seven Category A countries, including Belarus, Ethiopia, and Ukraine.

Kenya’s doping problems have been documented for at least a decade and its national anti-doping programme, which was shown to be ineffective and was accused of being corrupt, was given a major overhaul in 2016 when the new Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) was established.

Two popular drugs of choice are Norandrosterone and triamcinolone acetonide -- the latter is used for weight loss, muscle building, and endurance and has long been part of doping in cycling.

The AIU said last month that 10 Kenyan athletes had tested positive in 2021-22 for triamcinolone acetonide, which was still allowed in some forms last year before being banned in January.

Rita Jeptoo, a multiple Chicago and Boston marathon winner, and Jemima Sumgong, who won the Rio Olympic title in 2016, were among those banned for taking the blood-boosting Erythropoietin (EPO).

And in 2019, Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic and three-time world 1500m champion, was given a four-year ban after testing positive for the drug.

However, the 2023 season has seen a major shift in the fight against doping. ADAK increased their doping tests and ensured that athletes were tested randomly and frequently.

The move would of course see the rise in the number of doping cases but it will also help in curbing the menace in the country since athletes will be intentional about their moves.

Namwamba also warned rogue coaches and managers and noted that in no time, all of them will be apprehended for the criminal offences. He explained that they will be visiting all the camps to ensure all the coaches and managers are certified.

Above all, Namwamba explained that educating the athletes, coaches, and managers about the doping menace and its consequences will be a good step.

At the moment, things are shifting for the better and athletes are more aware of the menace and the consequences.

The journey in the fight against the menace is surely taking the right course and with the efforts being put in, Kenya will be out of Category A in no time.