The 2008 Beijing Olympics 800m champion Wilfred Bungei moved participants at the Athletes Kenya Athletes' Conference when he revealed how alcoholism almost ruined his life after retiring from the sport eight years ago.
However, Bungei, who officially retired in 2010, said he managed to go through rehabilitation under Alcoholic Anonymous group and has not taken alcohol for almost six years.
Bungei, 38, was speaking about pre and post challenges in athletes’ life during the opening day of the three-day conference at Safari Park Hotel on Thursday.
New York City Marathon champion and all-women world marathon record holder Mary Keitany also talked on the same topic.
Bungei confessed how he felt a big vacuum had entered his life upon retiring in 2010 since he nothing else. “I lived 365 days annually as an athlete on track with no social life.
“It took a toll on me, retiring and having nothing to do hence resorted to drinking," said Bungei.
“I started with a tot or two and ended up downing five litres of wine and would top up with a litre of vodka the following day.”
On the night the 2008 Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru died of May 15, 2011, Bungei was admitted in hospital having had too much alcohol for his body to handle.
“I might have gone back home but someone knocked my door to break Wanjiru’s bad news.
“I broke down in tears knowing that it’s me who should have died,” said Bungei. “Wanjiru had a problem and should not have died if someone realised it early.”
Bungei said that he decided to share his story since majority of athletes, who were earning millions now are going through similar problems or are heading in that direction.
“Out of five athletes, who retire three of them go under within three years,” explained Bungei, who is the owner of Tortoise Resort in Kapsabet town, Nandi County.
“Most athletes have challenges preparing for retirement but I am fortunate to have a family that realised my problem and helped me,” said Bungei, who was admitted to a rehabilitation centre in Nairobi for eight months. “No athlete should go through this,” he said
Keitany cautioned male athletes who preyed on young female athletes and called on Athletics Kenya to assist young athletes get good managements.
Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei warned that any Kenyan athlete who will be sanctioned for doping offence will be permanently barred from ever representing the country.
Tuwei said he will not allow the country to be mocked or ridiculed internationally because of doping.
"We saw what happened at 2017 World Championships in London where an athlete was booed throughout his races. That is what I don't want to see happen to any Kenyan athlete or this country," said Tuwei.
"We won't allow any convicted cheat to compete for us no matter how good they are even after completing their ban."
Tuwei said that Kenyan athletes will only be allowed to compete at the World Championships and Olympics after going through three out-of-competition doping tests and a similar number of tests during competition.