The Athletes Conference held in Eldoret last week and attended by nearly all the elite runners including the ‘Man of the Year’ Eliud Kipchoge, was a welcome step for Kenya as the fight against doping continues to gather steam.
The exchange of ideas between the panellists and athletes was an eye-opener as the country strives to ensure the doping menace that has seen Russia recently banned from all global sporting activities for four years does not take root in the country.
It was refreshing to see athletes drive the agenda on how best to tackle the use of illegal substances. I must mention that the kind of questions they posed to our guests from Athletics Integrity Unit—Thomas Capdevielle and Aditya Kumar—left no doubt that they understand the doping subject better.
I think the four-day Eldoret Conference was the beginning of the end to the doping menace.
From my conclusion, the main stakeholders who are the athletes tended to agree that doping was not only unnecessary but a ‘Time Bomb in waiting’.
But judging from the mood of the conference, it was obvious that most Kenyan runners are clean and only a few bad apples have put the country in bad light. But as Athletics Kenya, we will pick from where we left and we want to keep the Anti-Doping conversation going.
We believe by persistently hammering at the subject, we can achieve our target of reviving the country’s good old days.
Our main concern is to change the mindset of the young and upcoming runners and be able to inculcate a sense of hard work in them. Of course, there are no shortcuts in athletics as once mentioned by world 800m record holder David Rudisha.
Besides doping issues other subjects like media and athletes relations; investment and retirement, filing returns and legal issues were very vital for the athletes.
What caught me was the issue of athletes requesting for an interpreter during the international championships to guide them during media interviews.
I think this is important and It will help them say the right things in a language they are comfortable in. Our Ethiopian counterparts do the same and I, therefore, see no need for struggling with languages that are alien to us.
The team-building events conducted by Ali Mazoa also went a long way in helping the athletes bond outside their normal training and competition arena.
Overall, this will help them cultivate a working relationship among themselves and also help them build their brands beyond the athletics realm.
Tailor-made engagements towards helping them achieve this should be organised by Athletics Kenya, Nock with the support of Adak.
The motion to have dopers serve prison sentences and banned from ever representing the country was another step in the right direction and should be pursued vigorously.
Parliamentarians have shown the desire to crack the whip on both the abusers and they should ensure necessary legislation is passed to make this proposal a reality.
On this the Sport Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed gets credit for her efforts in sending the proposed legislation to Parliament.