Athletes urge speedy action against doping to avoid ban

Thursday February 18 2016

Former Marathon World Record holder and president of Professional Athletes Association of Kenya, Wilson Kipsang (right) and other athletes in a show of solidarity against doping at 64 Resort and Sporting Club in Eldoret town on February 17, 2016. The athletes implored Athletics Kenya and the government to fast-track legislation criminalising doping to avoid Kenya being banned from the Olympics. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

Former Marathon World Record holder and president of Professional Athletes Association of Kenya, Wilson Kipsang (right) and other athletes in a show of solidarity against doping at 64 Resort and Sporting Club in Eldoret town on February 17, 2016. The athletes implored Athletics Kenya and the government to fast-track legislation criminalising doping to avoid Kenya being banned from the Olympics. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By COPPERFIELD LAGAT
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By ELIAS MAKORI
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A group of elite athletes has implored Athletics Kenya and the government to fast-track legislation criminalising doping to avoid Kenya being banned from the Olympics.

Over 80 athletes affiliated to the Volare Sports management team, including world marathon greats Dennis Kimetto, Wilson Kipsang and Geoffrey Mutai, met in Eldoret on Wednesday evening to make the passionate appeal.

Kenya was last week given a two-month grace period by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to show seriousness in the fight against doping.

Such seriousness would include creation of legislation that would criminalise doping and setting up of testing mechanisms.

POSSIBLE GLOBAL BAN

Should Kenya fail to beat the April deadline, then Wada would place the country on the list on “non-compliant” nations, a status that would attract devastating consequences, including a possible ban from the Olympics and other global competitions.

The athletes, who also included former Frankfurt and Seoul Marathon champions Gilbert Kirwa, Wilfred Kirwa, Jason Mbote and World marathon silver medallist Hellah Kiprop, said they would launch more of their own education sessions to equip athletes with knowledge on doping issues.

Gerard van de Veen, who heads the Volare Sports management team, that is based in Voorthuizen, the Netherlands, along with Hannah van de Veen from his management team, conducted Wednesday’s training for the athletes.

“Volare Sports saw it fit to start educating athletes on the effects of doping to supplement the efforts being made by Athletics Kenya, the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya and the government. We will have more such forums,” Gerard told Nation Sports.

Kipsang, the former world marathon record holder, told athletes to be wary of medication they take and to always check which medication or supplements are acceptable in different countries.

“We must all step up the fight against doping because if we are banned, Kenya will never be the same again,” Kipsang, the Olympic marathon bronze medallist who ran two hours, three minutes and 23 seconds to break the world record in Berlin in 2013, said.

ATHLETES PRESSURE

Mutai, once the fastest marathon runner in the world with a 2:03:02 at the 2011 Boston Marathon, said Kenyan athletes are facing more intense pressure due to the doping issue.

“Wada are always asking us questions and we are not sure if we will be banned or not. Doping has become a very serious global issue and if we don’t come up and speak out, no-one will speak for us,” said Mutai who makes a comeback to Boston this spring.

Mbote, who has run under the Volare banner since 2004, winning the Seoul Marathon three times, also advised athletes not to keep changing their management as this would make them lose focus and fall prey to substance abuse.

Wilfred Kigen, three times winner in Frankfurt (2005, 2006 and 2007), concurred.

“It is important to stay in one management, train hard and win easy,” said Kigen.

Kiprop, beaten to the marathon gold medal by Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba at last year’s World Championships in Beijing, also encouraged the young athletes to take education on doping seriously.

Kiprop will be making a stab at next weekend’s Tokyo Marathon.

Kipsang, a police officer who is also the president of the Professional Athletes Association of Kenya (PAAK), and who is studying for a degree in criminology, said the government should accept that the doping menace poses a national danger and should move to show the world that Kenya has been winning clean.

Kipsang said Kenya cannot afford to get banned and miss the forthcoming Olympic Games just for failing to show its commitment.

ADAK FUNDING

Among the issues Kipsang said will be of importance is the government allocating funds for the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).

“This is a country which has made its name as an athletics giant. We have done well in the Olympic and World Championships and therefore, we should not miss out complying with the doping directives,” Kipsang said.

“Since the formation of ADAK, the agency has never been formalised and most importantly given powers to deal with doping. It also needs legislative will from government,” said Kipsang.

At Wednesday’s Volare Sports seminar, athletes were educated what drugs to keep off from whenever they fell sick and handed a list of substances banned by Wada.

Suspended Athletics Kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat, his deputy David Okeyo and the association’s former treasurer Joseph Kinyua are all being investigated over allegations of financial impropriety and abetting doping.

The federation’s chief executive Isaac Mwangi earlier this week stepped aside to allow for investigations into allegations that he demanded bribes from athletes to hand lenient suspensions to doping offenders.

Sprinters Joy Sakari and Francisca Koki Manunga, who failed dope tests at last year’s World Championships, made the sensational claims reported by the French news agency, AFP.