On March 8, 2008, a tearful Marion Jones was carted off to prison to start a 6 month sentence for lying to investigators about her use of performance enhancing drugs. She had been arguably the most popular athlete. When she was busted for doping, it had a devastating effect on the sport. Many fans in the USA lost faith in the sport as it has now become synonymous with cheating.
In sentencing Jones, the judge noted the effect that Marion Jones doping had on society. noted that “athletes in society … serve as role models to children around the world. When there is a widespread level of cheating, it sends all the wrong messages.”
This applies in Kenya as well except that the effect of doping is more magnified. When an athlete the calibre of Rita Jeptoo is busted for doping, it has a chilling effect on the fortunes of other Kenyan athletes. Suddenly doubts creep up as to whether other Kenyans are clean. The mystique that Kenyan runners have will soon start to fade. Whereas Kenyan runners are a required staple in every road race, soon race organizers will feel less obligated to invite Kenyans. Thus what has been a lucrative opportunity for Kenyan runners will disappear.
This is bad in a country where the youth unemployment rate is close to 50%, the government’s fake statistics notwithstanding. And keep in mind that these athletes are often feeding extended families and paying school fees for multiple relatives with their earnings. It is therefore apparent that athletes who are using performance enhancing drugs are putting the livelihood of their fellow runners in jeopardy. And they are ruining one of the few things that gives Kenyans a sense of national pride. This is especially true for prominent athletes.
It is therefore imperative that the Kenyan authorities get to the bottom of the doping mess that is plaguing the Kenyan athletics scene. Investigate who provided the drugs, which agents encourages them to cheat and which other parties are involved. Obtaining drugs like EPO without a prescription is likely illegal even with Kenya’s lax laws. Athletes who do not cooperate with the investigations should be sentenced.
Note that this article is not suggesting that all athletes who dope should be thrown in prison. The point of this article is that the athletes should be asked to reveal their sources and other information that can help fight the menace. Those who do not cooperate should be sentenced just like Marion Jones.
It has taken decades to build Kenya’s reputation as a factory for legitimate distance runners. A few bad apples should not be allowed to ruin it
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