WHY DOPING IS RARE IN KENYA, by Justin Lagat
Some time in May 2011, I visited Mary Keitany at her home in Iten to interview her for a magazine I was working for at that time. Coincidentally, I arrived there at the same time that some unannounced visitors – two IAAF anti-doping agents were also arriving. Ketany welcomed them cheerfully, and at their request, showed us a video of herself running the London Marathon, which she had run less than a month previous to that day. She then left me in the living room with the visitors who explained to me that, because of the nature of their work, they were not going to tell me their names, especially after learning that I was a journalist. She came back to the room, served us with lunch as her husband also arrived to join us, prayed for the food and thanked God for the visitors, and then welcomed us.
Mary Keitany, February 2012,
After the lunch, the anti-doping agents excused themselves saying that they had a lot of other athletes to visit, and so, a lady took Keitany to a private room to take the samples and they left after that.
Since 2007, I have been a witness to many surprise visits by such anti-doping agents to camps and homes of many elite athletes here in Kenya. After reading allegations that athletes are not getting tested in Kenya, I tried to find out more about it and discovered that since 1980s WADA have been actually here in Kenya doing the tests! A case of John Ngugi missing a test in 1993 proves that, but the reason why WADA could not test him at his home in Nyahururu was controversial and his ban was reduced.
Edna Kiplagat, February 2012, in Kenya,
I’m mentioning these incidences because I expected WADA to come out and discard the allegations by some foreign journalist that there is widespread doping by athletes in Kenya. I wanted them to point out the facts to the world that for over 30 years, among the long list of banned athletes, only 16 have come from Kenya. I wanted them also to point out that after the allegations, Kenyan athletes voluntarily came out to be tested in order for them to prove to th
e world that they are clean. WADA conducted the voluntary tests, and still kept silent. I also expected WADA to address the allegations that testing is not being conducted in Kenya, by telling the world what they have been doing here, visiting training camps for many years that have passed. Where have they been taking the samples?
While I do not have answers to the above questions, I would like to air my reasons as to why I do believe that Kenyan athletes do not dope, or if any do, according to the recorded facts which you can search for yourself from various archives, it may only be about one athlete in a span of two years.
Asbel Kiprop, February 2012, in Kenya,
The first reason Kenya’s athletes do not dope is because they believe that they are superior in the world when it comes to long distance running. They are too proud of their natural talents to accept any “help” from drugs. They believe they can achieve success naturally as far as running is concerned. This is witnessed in local competitions in Kenya where crowds jeer and laugh at the athletes whenever a foreigner runs past him. In fact, when that happens, most step out of the race because, to them, that would only mean they are not in their right shape to compete. In order to gauge their probability of winning when they are invited to run abroad, they ask the number of Kenyans in the particular race.
Wilson Kipsang, Kenya, February 2012,
Secondly, to most, their living depends on running and they would never want to play crap-shoots with it. Most Kenyan athletes came from poor backgrounds that would not have enabled them to pursue other opportunities in life, like education and business. Because of that, they would not want to risk getting banned from running, which may be the only source of livelihood for their families. The appearance and winning money they get often goes to educate siblings and their children, fund other investments and pay for their daily living expenses.
Emmanuel Mutai, February 2012,
Thirdly, the respect they have for those who save them from poor living conditions and sponsor them in their training camps before they could succeed, would not allow their egos do so. Veterans and other professional athletes, who often act as role models as well, often help with training facilities and foodstuff and are highly regarded by those who get their help. Others are sponsored by their parents or close relatives, and would not want to let them down by engaging in doping.
St. Patrick’s High School, Kenya,
Fourthly, most of the performance-enhancing drugs are too expensive and involve too sophisticated processes for most Kenyan athletes. Most of them cannot even afford a brand new pair of training shoes and depend on second hand ones, which are much cheaper. If they would afford the drugs, they would as well afford at least two pairs of good training shoes.
Geoffrey Mutai, Eldoret, 2011,
Lastly, WADA agents are always on the ground to give surprise tests to athletes, as they have been doing for the last many years.
Wilson Kipketer, Roma 04,
I talked on the phone with Bro. Colm O’Connell, who has coached many of Kenya’s Olympic Gold medalists and world record holders that include David Rudisha and Wilson Kipketer of Denmark, and he assured me that we should never go with the allegations of doping by Kenyan athletes, since there are enough reliable institutions that monitor and implement anti-doping programs here. He told me that most of the elite athletes here in Kenya get tested up to 15 times every year. He also said that the process of anti-doping testing is sophisticated and he cannot think that advanced doping services which might be able to influence the results can be available here in Kenya. He also rubbished claims that there are doctors in Kenya who specialize in doping athletes saying that any doctor anywhere in the world knows what drugs can be used for, and if a doctor in Kenya can do that, then doctors anywhere else in the world can as well do.
David Rudisha, Areva Paris 2012,
He said there may be temptations among new athletes to dope, but warned that not only should an athlete think on the implications of being banned, but also of the health problems and side effects they will get after using the drugs, which could be even worse than being banned. Having been in the field of running as a coach for around 40 years, he has known of some athletes who cheated and their enhanced performances lasted only for a very short time and then they spent the rest of their lives suffering the side effects of the drugs. He believes doping here is extremely rare.
I also spoke with a number of elite athletes here as well and, like Bro. Colm, they think that it isn’t possible for athletes to dope here without being caught, adding that if there had been a problem with the anti-doping program here in Kenya, WADA would have addressed it many years ago.
Well, that’s all the information I got in my endeavor to find out about the “rampant doping” allegations among Kenyan athletes, as implied by a now infamous German journalist. Unfortunately, it looks like it is harder to get famous by writing facts, than when you write allegations!