Jail terms for drug cheats the best way forward

Thursday January 3 2019

Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) Chief Executive Officer Jasper Kiplimo Rugut makes a presentation on doping during Athletes’ Annual Conference at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi on December 6, 2018.PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |

Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) Chief Executive Officer Jasper Kiplimo Rugut makes a presentation on doping during Athletes’ Annual Conference at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi on December 6, 2018.PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

BARNABAS KORIR
By BARNABAS KORIR
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Recent headlines in various media houses on China’s fight against doping has got me thinking.

According to the top story, Chinese athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs will receive criminal punishments and jail terms from next year as China cracks down on doping ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Already, China’s sports administration and top judicial authorities are drafting criminal law on doping. The new anti-doping punishments will probably be put into effect early this year. Perhaps this is the way to go for Kenya with the rising cases of doping in the country.

Like China, doping scandals have messed Kenya’s international sporting record in the past few years with some athletes serving four-year bans.

Former National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino had earlier proposed the same stringent measures, but the issue was washed under the carpet.

Kipchoge wanted doping to be made criminal. He argued the move would ensure whoever engages in or encourages doping in sports faces stern action, including a jail sentence, so as to protect the country’s upcoming sportsmen and women.

Indeed, the truth of the matter is that we have tried to use other means to fight doping but it’s not very effective.

As Athletics Kenya, we have held seminars — with the recent having been — last month but these have had very little impact.

Jail terms will work very effectively as this will ensure dopers are separated from clean athletes.

We can never continue treating dopers with kids gloves at the expense of the country’s reputation.

There come a time when we have to say enough is enough as this menace is wrecking our next generation. In fact Kenya’s credible reign in athletics, especially in long-distance running, has continued to be questioned because of a few self seekers.

Besides working with the International Association of Athletics Federation's Athletics Integrity Unity to eradicate the menace, we need to take the punishment a notch higher and a jail term is the best option. The reputation of our sportsmen and women has been tainted beyond any imagination and we cannot allow the perpetrators of this heinous act to continue roaming freely and messing up our next generation.

As Kipchoge proposed, the government should also tighten rules on agents managing our sportsmen and women to make them accountable for any doping case involving their athletes.

Between 2004 and August last year, Kenya has had 138 cases of positive tests for banned substances among its elite athletes, of which 113 were taken in competition and this is not encouraging.

As we celebrate the new year, we must fight to eradicate this menace.

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