Athletics Kenya has no choice but to take doping seriously

Rita Jeptoo’s positive doping result for EPO came as a shocker to most Kenyans. Prior to Jeptoo’s positive test, no prominent Kenyan athlete had ever been busted for doping. Whenever Athletics Kenya was criticized for their lack of testing protocols, they dismissed accusations of doping amongst Kenyan athletes as the work of a jealous minority. Even when steeplechase legend Moses Kiptanui raised the alarm two years ago, AK was still dismissive.

And rightfully so. Before Jeptoo, the only other prominent Kenyan athlete who had failed a doping test was Mathew Kisorio. But he can hardly be called significant. Jeptoo was significant because she had won the Chicago and Boston marathons twice in a row and had just won the 2014 world marathon series.

She is most likely guilty

Rita Jeptoo has protested her innocence and demanded a B sample test. She remains innocent up until her “B” samples are tested to either clear or prove the allegations. But as her agent Federico Rosa noted, the chances that the B sample will come back negative are almost zero. “I don’t remember there [ever] being a mistake, especially when they told me it was EPO” said Rosa.

Her former husband Noah Busienei who was once her coach, claims Jeptoo started doping in 2011 after being advised to do so by a foreign agent who promised to make her rich.

A look at Jeptoo’s yearly progression shows that her performances improved starting in 2011. She went from running marathons in the 2:27 range to running in 2:22 and finally 2:19.

Kenya’s reputation at stake

Jeptoo’s positive test has given ammunition to detractors who have always held that Kenya’s sudden dominance of the marathon is due to doping. Thanks to Jeptoo, fans will no longer look in awe at Kenyan runners. Its a shame because most of them are clean.

The sport popularity of athletics as a whole has plummeted over the past 20 years. Failing of drug tests by prominent athletes like Marion Jones especially did damage to the sport. Jeptoo’s positive test could also have a similar chilling effect.

Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany recently won the New York marathon but their wins were clouded in gloom and suspicion in some quarters. The most ardent Kenyan fans will refuse to face this reality. But it does not change the fact that Kenyan road racers will henceforth be viewed with suspicion. They may even find themselves being invited to fewer and fewer races.

It is instructive to note that Kenya’s erstwhile rivals Ethiopia have had scarcely any doping violations and certainly none of their prominent athletes have busted for doping.

AK must pull up their socks.

AK has failed to tame rogue agents. In fact they have done almost nothing. They should demand that Jeptoo give details of the agents who encouraged her to dope. Federico Rosa recently claimed he knows the agent responsible. He should be forced to identify the culprit or lose his lucrative license that enables him to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Kenyan athletes.

The government also ought to investigate the issue. If Jeptoo obtained EPO illegally then whomever sold it to her should be charged.

The anti-doping centre that was set up in Eldoret in May of 2013 should be put into work overtime. Kenya must show the world that they are now taking doping seriously.

 


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