The Kenyan government pledged to provide an additional $5 million a year for the next five years to strengthen Kenya’s anti-doping programmes. This proved to be the magic bullet that saw Kenyan athletics survive the looming global ban from World Athletics due to a flood of doping cases by the athletes this year.
The decision, which was reached during the World Athletics Council meeting in Rome, Italy on Wednesday, November 30, was an early Christmas gift for Kenya, a country with a rich sporting history.
A ban would have ruined the country’s sporting reputation and sunk any current endorsement or marketing deals enjoyed due to the negative press that would have engulfed Kenyan sports and athletics in particular.
Athletics is a huge cog in the multi-billion-dollar global sports industry with World Athletics indicating that the 2022 World Championships in Oregon where Kenya placed fourth on the medal standings had an impact of $273 million.
Speaking at a media briefing following the council meeting, World Athletics President Seb Coe welcomed the measures being taken to address the doping situation in Kenya.
“I particularly welcome the additional resource made available by the Government of Kenya in this fight. The only way that we can reduce the scale of this problem is a joint commitment across all the sports stakeholders in Kenya and of course World Athletics and its Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU),” said Coe.
As Kenya remains a Category A federation under the World Athletics anti-doping rules, the onus remains on Kenyan authorities to work closely with the AIU to ensure these funds are used effectively. Focus now shifts to the national anti-doping agency (ADAK) as well as the athletics federation, Athletics Kenya (AK) to eradicate the widespread doping scourge.
New Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba while celebrating Kenya’s great escape, promised an all-out, multi-agency network, war against doping.
“As we celebrate, I want to announce that we have activated preparations of a concise, comprehensive action plan that is time bound on how to fight this war,” said Namwamba at a media briefing on Thursday, December 1, in Nairobi.
Among the measures the sports minister is considering is a further amendment of the Anti-Doping Act so that doping substances be classified as hard narcotics drugs whose possession and distribution attracts punitive sentences.
This was the second time Kenya was in the sporting world’s crosshairs due to doping and the country is clearly treading on thin ice.
Speaking to the Daily Nation, Milcah Chemos, who attended the Rome meeting as the Athletes Representative at the National Olympic Committee of Kenya and who is a former 3,000m steeplechase world champion called for collective responsibility in the war against doping.
“Kenya will not escape the third time. This is the last chance for us to change or perish. I want to commend the government and Athletics Kenya for making our case known at the Council meeting,” said Chemos.
Author: Warothe Kiiru