AIU used annual conference in Eldoret to educate athletes on the need to run clean.
World Athletics anti-doping watchdog, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), has admitted there is a major doping problem in Kenya.
In an effort to curb the menace, AIU launched an out-of-competition testing pool this week for road runners and marathoners.
The doping watchdog intends to add 40 to 50 athletes in a testing pool by next February. The previous pool had 70 runners.
85 per cent of these athletes will come from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Eritrea, where a huge number of runners win races across the world.
AIU head of Education and Communication Aditya Kumar said: “Doping has been a big concern in the last four to five years since the Russian scandal and doping has become a vocal point in the world of sports.
“You can see world organisations like the International Olympics Committee, World Anti-doping Agency and World Athletics are all impacted by doping.”
He said in Kenya it’s a big problem, that’s why the World Athletics came up with a framework to help countries like Kenya overcome the challenges.
“In the past we used to tell countries that you have doping problems but we realised that model wasn’t working, that’s why we decided to grade countries with high risks of doping and help them come up with a national framework to fight the menace,” Kumar said.
Over 200 Kenyan athletes are currently banned over doping. Some of the top names include Rio 2016 Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong, three-time Boston Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo and former world champion Asbel Kiprop.
“After global analysis we have put Kenya in the category with highest risks alongside Ethiopia, Belarus, Ukraine and Bahrain. And of course Russia is currently suspended.
“This is not a shaming list, but it depends on the level of success in those countries and the national framework to fight doping,” the AIU official who was in Eldoret for the annual athletics conference, said.
He said Kenya was a very successful country in running and AIU was very keen in helping it fight the doping problem.
The Athletics Kenya (AK) conference in Eldoret was organised at a time when most organisers of road races in Europe had threatened not to invite Kenyan athletes to their meetings over what they termed as widespread doping.
This threat caught the eye of the World Athletics, who through AIU are working with Kenyan authorities in trying to ensure that doping will not be a problem to Kenyan athletes in the future and that Kenya will once again be able to send its athletes to major meetings without much scrutiny.
“Putting Kenya in group ‘A’ is one of the measures we put in place to fight the doping menace. We gave Athletics Kenya specific measures and obligations on what they need to do.
“The obligations are three mandatory out of competition testing, vetting of the people who handle athletes who should be able to help us in investigations when needed,” Kumar said.
Previously, AIU were making athletes accountable for their actions, but in a bid to help Kenya fight doping the world body is also now going to also make the national governing body accountable and now AK will be tasked with the role of supporting the Anti-doping Agency of Kenya and the government.
Kumar said the training in Eldoret was an advocacy effort to try and get the highest authority involved in fighting doping.
“Doping in Kenya is totally different from Russia. In Russia it was institutionalised according to independent commissions that investigated the matter.
“In Kenya, the problem is big, but it’s not structured. Social economic functions is also doping, and those are the kind of problems we are dealing with,” he said.
He also urged the Kenyan government to help in fighting the problem by dealing with the pharmacies that keep selling some these drugs to athletes.
Despite the doping issue, AIU’s head of programs Thomas Capdevielle was however happy with the large turnout at the conference in Eldoret saying that it proves Kenya was serious about fighting doping.
“I have never been to such a session that is full with some of the world’s finest long-distance runners including world and Olympic champions.
“This is unique and amazing. It’s my hope that athletes will take advantage of what they have learned to spread the message of clean sports,” said Capdevielle.
World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who is also the Olympic marathon champion, World marathon champion Ruth Chepng’etich and World Half Marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor praised AIU’s initiative.