In 2014, I wrote a series of pieces on the doping positive of Rita Jeptoo, who was, then, champion of Boston and Chicago. She created quite a stir that year, as she was also the 2014 World Marathon Majors winner. Kenyans testing positive is nothing new. What is happening now is that the Athletics Integrity Unit is focusing on cheating in Kenya and catching more of the dopers. That is a good thing.
Here are the five observations I want to make about the rash of doping positives in Kenya:
- Happy to see that the Athletics Integrity Unit is doing its job. Face it, anyone with half a brain knew that Athletics Kenya was not doing its job on drug testing and that athletes were getting through training cycles with drug testing. AIU has put a focus on Kenya, and it is paying off. Positive tests mean that the AIU is doing its job.
- If an athlete can win two or three races in Europe, they are set for life! Think about it. Last time I checked, Kenya had more than 500 men who have run under 2:15 in the marathon. If a Kenyan or an Ethiopian athlete can win a few marathons in Europe or the US, they are set for life. Many can win these races without doping, but some people want guarantees. There are no guarantees.
- History always repeats in doping. In the 1990s and 2000s, one could tell when the former Soviet Republic was in an economic crisis by seeing its positive tests. I would see positive tests finding strychnine, which was legal in the early 1900s. In the recent Kenyan rash of positive tests, the drug used was a drug found in cycling drug positives. AIU is doing its homework.
- Doping is a business decision until the chance of being caught goes up. Athletics Integrity Unit is doing an incredible job, but it all takes time. In my observation, cheating in Kenya and Ethiopia is rampant, as if one has a small percentage of being caught; what stops an athlete on the verge of success from cheating?
- Ethics is a nice concept, but it sure does not pay the rent. Until we look at Kenya and Ethiopia’s economic challenges, we will see more and more doping. The punishments have to be draconian. Until athletes, coaches, teams surrounding athletes fear the punishments more than the chances of succeeding while doping, we will see positive tests and tampering accusations grow. The challenges in the global economy do not justify cheating in any world, but they do help us in Europe and North America understand the temptations of cheating.