The imminent criminalisation of doping is the clearest indication yet that Kenya as an athletics powerhouse is determined to wipe out the vice that has taken the sheen off the country’s long-standing success in the sport.
That the country now finds itself being mentioned in the same breath as serial institutionalised cheats Russia is a course for concern for aspiring and current athletes.
Let us face it, an Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) report unveiled mid this year ranked Kenya the third-highest country with the number of cheats only lower than suspended Russia (87) and India (42) in second.
It is also an open secret that we are still in Category ‘A’ (having the highest risk in doping) and this puts genuinely hard-working athletes careers at gross risk.
At Athletics Kenya, we have vowed not to sit back and watch a few individuals rock the boat because of their own selfish reasons.
We believe serious action has to be taken especially when there is a risk of individuals misdemeanour to put the whole country at risk of being locked out of international competitions.
A generation of Russian athletes will now face stigma and suspicion in their areas of speciality through mistakes that are not their own making. Kenya must avert such a possibility.
Athletics is not only a source of livelihood for thousands of runners across the country but also the pride of the nation and should be guarded at all cost.
Therefore, the move by the Kenyan government to criminalise doping and further to punish the entire circle involved is a step in the right direction.
Currently, the Kenyan law stipulates jail terms of up to three years for support staff found guilty in connection with doping, but not for athletes.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed recently disclosed that a team has been formed to amend the Anti-Doping Laws that will have doping criminalised hence government, through Adak, is committed to eradicating the vice. Amina also reiterated her earlier statement that athletes reprimanded for doping will never represent the country again.
The recent partnership between Adak, AIU and AK to popularise their newly launched Road Running Integrity Programme for 2020 is a key component of the fight against doping and should be supported by the government.
AIU’s commitment to have athletes go through out-of-competition anti-doping programmes is a move that will go a long way in ensuring a level playing field for all athletes. It will also nip in the bud possibilities of “unclean” athletes from taking part in international events.
Adak and AK should go further and implement the policy that will lock out any athletes found guilty of doping violations from ever taking part in competitions.
Elite athletes should be at the forefront in supporting the anti-doping programmes. This will have a direct impact on upcoming runners who will feel they can succeed without having to cheat.
With a second anti-doping seminar now ongoing in Eldoret, it is imperative that more funding is provided to cover a wider group of athletes.