The independent report released by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has cast a shadowing on Russian athletics, is probably leaving a number of other countries feeling queasy. Kenya is likely to be one of those countries, and some of its big names have called for the country to clean up its act. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
While we wait to hear what Sebastian Coe decides to do with Russia, following a damning report, which suggested wide-spread cover-ups of doping for several years, other countries should be shaking in their running spikes.
While the independent report, led by Dick Pound, zoned in on Russia, it made it clear that they were not the only countries who could face possible sanctions. Two of the countries which are likely to come under scrutiny are Kenya and Ethiopia. Currently, 15 Kenyan athletes are on the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) banned list, including Boston Marathon winner, Rita Jeptoo. The country’s Olympic committee chairman, Kipchoge Keino, has said that the government has failed to tackle the country’s doping problems.
“I have tried to reach government officials to agree on how to act but I don’t get appointments,” he said.
“I make calls that are unanswered. We even tried to convince senior government officials to attend these meetings, but they instead delegate to junior officers.”
Keino accused the Kenyan government of being “ambivalent” on doping matters, and suggested moving swiftly to introduce new laws for those who dope, suggesting criminalising doping in sport.
“That way, we shall convince the world of our commitment to fighting this crime. Anything else is just sugar coating,” added Keino, a two-time Olympic gold medallist.
Over the last few years, WADA have made their frustrations about Athletics Kenya’s (AK) attitude towards doping known, saying it was failing to act despite promising that it would. The governing body has repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, and recently set up an independent anti-doping agency. The problem, however, is resources.
In the last year, Kenya has suspended two foreign coaches who trained athletes that were caught for doping, but it is estimated that 35 Kenyan runners have failed drugs tests in the last three years.
Moses Kiptanui, the first man to blow the whistle on the use of banned substances in Kenya in 1991, also added his voice to the chorus calling for action.
“Russia, itself, is staring at an indefinite ban, and we should be asking ourselves, which country is next?” he said. “Our country has suffered a number of bans, and it is on the increase; so, definitely, we are not safe yet.”
“Athletics Kenya knows very well the coaches and managers who administer these drugs to their athletes, but nothing has been done to them,” said Kiptanui. “An athlete is banned for two years, and they get back and business goes on.”
When Mathew Kisorio was banned in 2012, he admitted that his coach was aware of the drugs. His coach at the time, Claudio Berardelli carried on coaching, and not long after, another one of Berardelli’s athletes, Rita Jeptoo, tested positive, too. Agatha Jeruto, another one of the Italian coach’s athletes, was also banned.
The Italian has since had his employment contract with the Italian athlete management company, Rosa & Associati, terminated. The company said that while they didn’t think he was directly involved, he was concerned that he was not on top of the issue. In a report by Agence France Presse, Rosa said the company oversaw five Kenyan training camps, but there were only doping problems in the one controlled by Berardelli, and so “decided to stop working with him.”
The ire from former athletes is understandable. If AK were serious about cleaning up their act, why did they not investigate the allegations of Kisorio? That question is likely to be answered through further independent reports commissioned by WADA, expected to be published later this year.
Kiptanui raised further concerns about the way federations act when their athletes are banned. Some Kenyan athletes banned by the IAAF were not punished by the federation itself, and the Anti-Doping Association of Kenya (ADAK) does not have the power to prosecute offenders.
“IAAF does not directly address athletes, but does so through the federation, that is why I can boldly say a few people in AK are encouraging doping, and are behind several cover-ups.”
Bold indeed, but perhaps not off the boil. Kisorio told the German broadcaster ARD last year that he took drugs “because everyone told me, I wasn’t the only one – and none of the others got caught for doping”. He added that doctors would extort athletes when they did well at competitions.
“When the prize money comes in, the doctors want a piece of your success. There are some doctors who settle down in popular athlete areas, where you can find the training camps. These men just open a pharmacy and claim they are just selling legal medication. Then they approach the athletes. It is the same all over the country.”
If that is indeed the case – that runners are being co-opted into a scheme like they were in Russia – then it is a great shame. Not just for the sport’s governing body, but for those who are behind the well-being of these runners. DM
Photo: Rita Jeptoo of Kenya talks on the phone after winning the Women’s Division of the 118th Boston Marathon in in Boston, Massachusetts, USA 21 April 2014. EPA/CJ GUNTHER.