Kenya doping: ‘Long journey’ to rebuild trust with World Athletics

Runners in Iten in Kenya
All but one of Kenya’s 35 Olympic gold medals have come in athletics

Kenya evaded a ban from competition but has a “long journey” ahead to rebuild trust following a string of doping violations, World Athletics president Lord Coe has said.

A total of 55 athletes are serving suspensions issued by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), with a further eight provisionally suspended and awaiting the outcomes of their cases.

As a result the East African country was reportedly at risk of a sanction from the sport’s governing body, but assurances offered by its government have allayed the threat of being barred from competition.

Lord Coe, speaking after World Athletics’ council meeting in Rome on Wednesday, said the Kenyan government had committed to spend $5m a year for the next five years to combat doping in the sport by funding more personnel, doping tests and investigations as well as bolster educational programmes.

The AIU will work closely with Kenya to implement the plan following what Lord Coe described as a “disfiguring” period.

“World Athletics has been concerned,” Lord Coe.

“Kenya are on the watch list already and have been for some years. It is pretty clear that World Athletics take very seriously the escalating problem that has arisen in Kenya.

“Over the course of one year, 40% of all the positives recorded [in doping tests] in global athletics are in Kenya. This was not something the sport, and certainly not World Athletics, was prepared to sit and develop.

“This is not a situation that is sustainable. I am pleased we have got a united response, and the only way this can be dealt with has to be collectively driven. All stakeholders, domestically and internationally, have a role and responsibility in trying to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

Letter from minister had impact

Kenya is among seven countries deemed a ‘Category A’ federation – the highest doping risk – by the AIU, meaning athletes from the countries have to undergo at least three tests in the 10 months prior to a major event to be able to compete there.

An overarching ban by World Athletics and the AIU would be a huge blow to the reputation of Kenyan athletics, having won 34 of its 35 Olympic gold medals in track and field events.

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya said the country had built an “illustrious history” in the sport and that “it is not ready to sacrifice this reputation due to the greed of a few actors”.

Earlier this month Ababu Namwamba, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Sports and the Arts, wrote to Lord Coe to assure him that Kenya’s government is taking firm measures to uphold the integrity of athletics.

“The letter was very important – for recognition from the highest levels of government that this is an issue that was disfiguring,” Lord Coe told BBC Sport Africa.

“Kenyan athletics is not just important to us globally. Kenyan athletics is very important to the brand values of Kenya.

“But it is a sport that needed some collective support and help.

“So that letter committing $25m over five years that will allow us to look at and reinforce the education programmes [and], I hope, also a deeper dive into the conduct of the entourage that is around some of the athletes, including coaches and athlete representatives.

“All these things allow us more horsepower, more resource, to be able to challenge some of these issues.”

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