A University of Stirling expert in doping in sport will investigate the prevalence or otherwise of performance enhancing drugs amongst Kenya’s elite runners.
The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) selected Dr Paul Dimeo, author of the critically acclaimed A History of Drug Use in Sport, to carry out a two-year project entitled Doping Behaviour, Causes and Prevention in Elite Level Kenyan Athletes: An Empirical Investigation, on the runners.
Kenya has a strong record of success in international athletics, particularly in middle- and long distance running, with all 14 of its 2008 Beijing Olympic medals coming from running events.
But while the athletes are household names on the international stage, little is known about their own knowledge of drugs – some of which may inadvertently fall foul of the WADA code.
Rarely suspected of doping
“Kenyan athletes are not widely suspected of doping, with only eight high-profile cases in the past 20 years and several of these included taking substances such as clomiphene and salbutamol, which might have been for medical purposes,” said Dr Dimeo, director of taught postgraduate programmes in Sports Management and Sports Coaching at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
“Yet there is a feeling some global policy makers are anxious about the Kenyan context and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has targeted Kenyan athletes for out-of-competition tests due to its lack of an established national anti-doping agency.
“WADA are also concerned about anti-doping in Kenya because it doesn’t report the statistics of national level testing. My research will look to identify if there is a problem in Kenyan running, but it’s also about getting an understanding of the attitudes and practices of athletes, coaches and sports staff in Kenya towards doping in athletics.”
Insufficient access to Internet
International sport has been plagued by the use of performance enhancing chemically produced substances such as amphetamines, steroids, HgH, EPO and other advanced chemical innovations since the 1960s.
However, naturally occurring plants in Kenya, such as miraa (khat), may contain traces of substances noted on the WADA list, increasing athletes’ chances of testing positive for dope – deliberately or inadvertently.
Another issue is the insufficient access in Kenya to the Internet, where much of the anti-doping information is held.
Dr Dimeo added: “There have been a number of studies to try and understand why Africans and Kenyans in particular have been so successful in athletics, but no research examining the risks posed by lack of information or how anti-doping policies and educational initiatives function in African countries.”
The researcher will partner with academics at Kenyatta University, including former international runner Professor Mike Boit and Dr Vincent Onywera, from the Department of Recreation Management and Exercise Science.
New insights into anti-doping
The findings of the project, due to be completed by January 2012, will be presented to WADA, Kenyan sports authorities, the International Olympic Committee, IAAF and the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Michele Verroken, the former Director of Ethics and Anti-Doping at UK Sport who advises many sports bodies on anti-doping in her role as director of sports business consultancy, Sporting Integrity, believes Dr Dimeo’s project can offer new insights into anti-doping.