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Doping claims among Kenyan athletes stirs outrage

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-2-18 9:25:26

Kenya's former 3000m steeplechase world record holder Moses Kutenai's claims that doping is rife among Kenya's athletes have stirred rage in Kenya, with the national athletics body dismissing them as "useless".

Kiptanui, the three-time world champion and one of the most successful runners in Kenyan history, claimed during an interview with BBC aired on Friday that many athletes use performance-enhancing drugs as a shortcut to wealth.

"Those former athletes yapping around about doping among Kenyan athletes are out to destroy the careers of upcoming athletes and should stop doing so," the President of Athletics Kenya, Isaiah Kiplagat angrily remarked during the IAAF/National Cross Country Championships held in Nairobi on Saturday.

"Doping claims among Kenyan runners are unfounded and recent and past tests have vindicated them because they are clean."

During the BBC interview, the 42-year-old Kiptanui said information shows that there are a good number of athletes out there who are using drugs "because they want to get money by all means, either genuinely or otherwise. We have put rules in place and if we don't use these rules then athletes will still use drugs."

Kiptanui is regarded as the greatest steeplechase in history after his success in the 1990s during which he became the first man to break the eight-minute barrier in the event. He also won the world titles in 1991, 1993 and 1995.

Kiplagat told the gathering that following the visit by World Anti Doping Agency's (WADA) President John Fahey over allegations of widespread doping among Kenyan athletes, AK authorities launched investigations last September during which more than 40 leading Kenyan athletes were subjected to out-of-competition tests after a team of overseas drug-testers paid an unannounced visit to the training bases.

Athletics Kenya Secretary General, David Okeyo challenged Kiptanui to provide evidence to back up his claims.

Kiptanui's allegations must have come at a bad time for athletics authorities, especially coming soon after the WADA President's visit to Kenya last year when he expressed that he was very alive to the charges against Kenya athletes.

"Kenya is a powerhouse in the world of sports and what occurs with athletes in this country is a shining example to the athletes of the world and is therefore most important nation in the fight against doping in sports," Fahey told Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba during their meeting in Nairobi.

Athletes who have been busted in Kenya for doping include marathoner Mathew Kisorio, Rose Jepkemboi Chesire and sprinter Elizabeth Muthoka who was banned by AK in 2008 after she had taken a cocktail of drugs to cure her low haemoglobin (red blood cell) count but they contained the banned substance Nandrolone.

Other Kenyans who have been banned for doping are Pamela Chepchumba who was interdicted in 2003, Lydia Cheromei (2006) and Susan Chepkemei (2007).

Athletics Kenya Vice Chairman Paul Mutwii has however exonerated Kenyan athletes from "deliberate" doping arguing that most of them were victims of ignorance.

"Most of those runners who have had banned substances found in their blood and urine samples are those who innocently purchased over-the-counter drugs to cure basic ailments like common cold. I do not believe they deliberately took the banned substances in order to enhance their performance," said Mutwii.

"Majority of them come from blind spots like deprived backgrounds and poor education; factors that have contributed to their vulnerability in this significant area of doping."

A cross section of stakeholders in the athletics fraternity interviewed by Xinhua were majorly in unison with the Vice Chairman's sentiments that Kenyan athletes compete cleanly and that the few reported cases are due to ignorance and have been blown out of proportion.

"Kenya has a long history of athletics excellence and it has never been part of our practice to cheat our way to success. The early pioneers set a trend of fair competition that is still being followed to the present date by those who came after them," said Charles Asati, one of the 4x400m relay quartet that won Kenya a gold medal at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.

This is not the first time that Kiptanui has come up with doping claims against Kenyan athletes.

In 2002, he spoke out strongly against doping cases involving Kenyan athletes soon after former 1500m Olympic silver medalist runner Bernard Lagat was provisionally suspended by AK after testing positive for blood-boosting supplement EPO - known to aid distance runners' performances.

"While majority of Kenyan athletes excel due to natural talent, the few who are using performance-enhancing substances are just overambitious runners who want to reach the top by dubious means," Kiptanui had commented then.

"This is greed, nothing else. They are spoiling the reputation that we helped to build over the years. But they should realize that they are not only spoiling the image of our beloved sport but putting their lives in danger."

Lagat was later cleared of the doping claims and changed his nationality to American.

Allegations that Kenyan athletes were using drugs surfaced ahead of the London Olympic Games last year when German television broadcaster ARD purported systematic doping by Kenya's elite athletes who train in running camps in the Rift Valley region.

Athletics Kenya rejected the accusations and angrily accused the broadcaster of attempting to distract its athletes ahead of the Games.

According to experts, drug cheats now need serious medical back-up to stay ahead of the testing agencies.

But with rising costs, some question whether sport can keep up the fight, especially with illustrations about the price some athletes are sometimes willing to pay for a shot at glory.

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