The government is committing to a “zero tolerance” approach as it urges athletics’ world governing body not to ban its athletes.
The Kenyan government is urging World Athletics not to ban the sport in the country, vowing to step up its fight against the use of banned substances after a series of its athletes were suspended for doping.
The East African country is world famous for its medium and long distance runners, who have won numerous gold medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships and recorded record times. Kenya ranked third in the track and field medal count at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The country has faced accusations of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs for years, but the athletics powerhouse has recently been rocked by a growing number of its runners testing positive. The country has faced accusations of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs for years
Kenya’s sports ministry issued a statement on Thursday acknowledging the ‘doping crisis’ and said sports minister Ababu Namwamba had written to World Athletics chairman Sebastian Coe and ‘urged’ the governing body not to not ban Kenya.
“The government is taking firm action to protect and maintain the integrity of athletics,” Kenya’s sports ministry said. The Kenyan government was “treating this as a matter of overriding strategic national interest”, he said.
A ban would prevent its athletes from competing globally, jeopardize its athletes’ plans for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and seriously damage the country’s reputation in sport.
“We will not allow unethical individuals to ruin Kenya’s reputation through doping,” Namwamba said on Twitter on Friday. “We must defeat doping and its perpetrators.”
The government told the governing body that it had committed an annual amount of $5 million over the next five years for the fight against doping, the Daily Nation newspaper reported.
He also had a “zero tolerance” commitment to doping, Namwamba said.
The World Athletics decision-making board is set to meet in Rome next week, where Kenya is expected to be discussed.
Fifty-five Kenyan athletes are currently banned and eight are provisionally suspended, according to the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent body formed by World Athletics to tackle doping in sport.
Kenya is a Category A country under World Athletics anti-doping rules, which means its athletes must undergo at least three urine and blood tests without notice and out of competition before major events. There are currently seven Category A countries, including Belarus, Ethiopia and Ukraine.
Among the Kenyans caught using banned substances are 2021 Boston Marathon winner Diana Kipyokei and compatriot Betty Wilson Lempus, who were provisionally suspended last month for using triamcinolone acetonide.
In April, Joyce Chepkirui, Kenyan champion of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the African 10,000 meters, was suspended for four years for an anomaly in the athlete’s biological passport dating back to 2019.
Kenya’s doping problems have been documented for at least a decade and its national anti-doping programme, which has proven ineffective and accused of corruption, underwent a major overhaul in 2016 when the new Kenya Anti-Doping Agency Kenya (ADAK) was established.
The national athletics federation has also been implicated in doping-related corruption cases.
Authorities have largely blamed the problems on small groups of what they call “criminal elements” who make money selling banned performance-enhancing substances to Kenyan runners. Kenya has decided to make doping a criminal offence.