Threats by organisers of world leading road running races to lock out Kenyan athletes over wanton doping cases is one of the reasons why Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) moved to introduce the Road Running Integrity Program for 2020.
AIU's head of programs, Thomas Capdevielle told over 100 road running athletes and their handlers that they were approached by the organisers who wanted to stop the Kenyan athletes especially after Rita Jeptoo and Jemima Sumgong's doping cases.
Jeptoo was banned for two years in 2014 after she tested positive to Erythropoietin (EPO), but her ban was extended for two more years after she lied in her defence.
Sumgong, who had just won the 2016 Rio Olympics Marathon, was banned for four years in 2017 over the use of EPO, but her ban was also extended to eight years after she also lied in her defence.
"The situation was bad with a few doping cheaters putting every Kenyan athlete at risk," said Capdevielle, who was accompanied by AIU education and communication Aditya Kumar.
"Again, people were jealous of Kenya's success in both track and road racing events. We have had to spend time defending Kenya with documentaries on doping issues coming when major events are almost," said Capdevielle. "The impact to the sport and the country was immense."
Aditya said sponsors had threatened to withdraw from events where Kenyan athletes were to participate.
Capdevielle disclosed that that is why they undertook an extensive analysis of road running to come up with the Road Running Integrity Programme for 2020.
AIU discovered that 76 percent of 50 road race winners in World Athletics Gold Label races were not part of any out-of-competition anti-doping programme in 2018.
In the same year, 74 percent of the podium finishers in those Gold Label road races were not included in out-of-competition testing pools in the sport or their testing Pool.
Capdevielle and Athletics Kenya declared the launch a major success with 108 athletes and 21 of their handlers attending.
"I have never been to such a session that is full with world's finest long distance runners including world and Olympic champions. This is unique and amazing. It's my hope that athletes will take advantage of what they have learned to spread the message of clean sports," said Capdevielle.
AK chief executive Officer Susan Kamau disclosed that athletes are happy about the sessions.
"These is the first time we are having a session with all elite road runners. They want more of these sessions hence we shall have consultations with AIU to have similar next year," said Kamau.
World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who is also the Olympic Marathon champion, World marathon champion Ruth Chepng'etich and World Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor were in praise of the AIU initiative.
Also in support were mixed women's World Marathon record holder Brigid Jepkosgei, all women's World record holder Mary Keitany, Olympic 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot and World 800m record holder David Rudisha.
"This one was quite unique with the class worked sessions being spiced up with team building," said Kipchoge, adding that there is now no reason why athletes have to dope under the pretext that they didn't have the knowledge or knowhow.
"Athletes must be responsible and respect and guard their passion that is Athletics," said Kipchoge.
Chepng'etich noted that the sessions went deep into doping issues that most athletes didn't understand.
"I have never been to such a session where you leave satisfied. This one was better than last year since we engaged in practical and was enjoyable," said Chepng'etich.
Keitany said the team building and AIU doping sessions were the best. "Most road running athletes are not in the testing pool hence these sessions have been beneficial," said Keitany.
Kamworor said considering Eldoret as the venue was commendable since most of the road runners hail from the area.
"The burden is now on us athletes to slay this dragon called doping," said Kamworor.
The AIU seminar now paves way for the Athletes' Conference starting Thursday at the same venue.