This is Justin Lagat's feature on Anti-Doping campaign in Kenya and how athletes should be involved in the anti-doping campgaign....

Athletes are the ones that are most affected negatively when a sport is tarnished by allegations of rampant doping and vice versa when the sport is cleaned. Companies that invest in them to promote their products may either begin to lose interest in being associated with them or feel proud of them, hence impacting also on the lives of many other young and upcoming athletes who will be yearning to get contracts and sponsorship deals in future. 

On the part of integrity, it is very disappointing for an athlete to work hard in order to attain a competitive time, only to face suspicions when he finally achieves it because some people are capitalizing on the few athletes that ever doped to convince others that there is no way anyone can run a sub 2:10 marathon without the help of drugs. It is actually very easy to guess the source of these false persuasions as some lovers of money (in the form of quacks, irresponsible coaches and agents) are busy devising ways to rob innocent hardworking athletes of their money. When athletes will choose to stand up together in a mission to clean the sport, I believe a big progress will be realized in the fight against doping.

Not only should the athletes be involved because they are the most affected, but also because they will be more efficient in reaching out to each other since they are always together in training camps and in venues of competitions. While I have never witnessed an athlete doping, I have unfortunately heard some who talked as though they were willing to dope if they found the means. I am glad I have been able to dissuade others from such thoughts and helped them to believe that they can achieve their goals while running clean, to feel proud and live good healthy lives in their future. It is easier for another athlete to open up and seek answers from a fellow athlete.

I believe that if more information is made available to athletes, such as the list of prohibited substances and the process of collecting and testing of samples, among other relevant information, they will begin to trust the credibility of the anti-doping agencies more and will listen less to those who will be telling them they will get away with doping. When educative materials are made available to athletes, then incidences of athletes being led to dope without their knowledge will certainly be eliminated.

There are many ways athletes can participate in ensuring that our sport is free from cheats. Being one of the many athletes who has proudly run in many races with their natural efforts and talents, this issue is one of great importance to me. I want to be part of a clean sport and for Kenyan athletes to be known throughout the world as those who can achieve greatness in our sport without the aid of drugs. I hope that prominent stakeholders, legendary athletes and influential people in this sport will all work together to achieve a greater awareness of the problem and a desire amongst all athletes in every part of the world to remain clean and compete fairly.

After helping to separate facts from myths on doping, it will then rest upon the athlete to choose whether to believe what other successful athletes who run clean tell them, or to believe a quack at some chemist somewhere, who is just interested in his/her money, to inject him with some substances that might even be still under research as to whether they are fit for human beings! After all, the quack gets his money even before one goes out to run and will not be held responsible in any way for what happens to the athlete because he certainly won't write a receipt nor a prescription note for what he gives.
For those few athletes who think they can dope and get away with it, I have a few thoughts for you to ponder about: If Tyson Gay was caught, who are you? And if you think that a two year ban is worth risking, think again because there is a motion now under discussion that may have athletes that have ever been banned in the past and those who will be caught in future to be given a life ban. Think also about the side effects of the drugs that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. Think also about your ego and your integrity. Think about the fairness and the cleanliness of the sport. Think about the reputation of runners throughout the world. Do you wish to be the person responsible for tainting the reputation of your country and your people, or do you want to be part of a legacy of athletic and genetic greatness? The choice is yours to make. Choose right

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