A country known for producing some of the world’s premier distance runners has recently found itself in the spotlight for some of its athletes using illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced in November it has been investigating Kenya since March for allegations of covering up doping.
Twenty-four-year-old Samuel Njuguna is a Kenyan pole vaulter and marathoner. He says it is "not good" that some of his fellow athletes have been involved in the scandal.
“Maybe you come in No. 1, but it is not a perfect,” said Njuguna. “It is not fair to others because can you imagine, I am working hard to work on that and someone is using drugs? It is discouraging.”
Kenya banned seven athletes in November for doping offenses, raising the number of drug cases to 40 in the past three years. This includes two female sprinters sent home from the recent world championships in Beijing.
Retired general Jackson Tuwei is the acting president of Athletics Kenya, the country’s national association. He said in all local and international competitions, athletes are tested for doping in what he calls a "very elaborate exercise."
IAAF provisionally suspended athletics officials
“Let me say very clearly that it is not a systemic problem,” Tuwei said. “I think these are purely individual problems, and we want to say that it is a small proportion; but, we of course would like to have nothing of that.”
Tuwei is Athletics Kenya's acting head because the IAAF provisionally suspended three senior Kenyan athletics officials for 180 days. The officials are accused of subverting the anti-doping control process in Kenya and improperly diverting funds received from Nike through a sponsorship deal.
Suspended officials included Athletics Kenya president Isaiah Kiplagat, the association's vice president and IAAF council member David Okeyo, and Joseph Kinyua, former treasurer of Athletics Kenya.
Njuguna says these allegations tarnish Kenya’s athletic reputation and "diminish our country," adding, "the image is not good for our country.”
The International Olympic Committee asked Kenya’s Olympic committee, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency, to ensure an efficient out-of-competition testing program for athletes in all sports.
New Kenyan anti-doping body
In November, the Kenyan government set up a national anti-doping organization and gave it the authority to carry out tests and prosecute cases.
Tuwei said Athletics Kenya does not have the power or capacity to investigate or prosecute, so he is pleased the government set up this new agency.
“And so, we are working very closely, very, very closely with that team and we believe that we are going to make very, very good progress,” he said.
In a statement provided to VOA, the World Anti-Doping Agency said it is assisting with the development of Kenya's national anti-doping organization, or NADO. It reads, “While progress has been made, there is still a lot of work required. In light of the recent allegations, we need the Kenyan government to ensure that the NADO’s development is expedited and that a full commitment is in place to establish the NADO.”
The agency also said it awaits concrete plans from the government to fund the NADO and finalize the anti-doping rules.
The agency said its officials will attend a meeting in Kenya in February to evaluate the progress that has been made and determine what steps need to be taken next.