NAIROBI, Kenya, October 27 – A top Kenyan sports official said Sunday the country’s legendary distance athletes were running clean and that the fight against doping in the country was both tough and transparent.
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual Nairobi marathon, a showcase for the depth and quantity of Kenyan talent, Athletics Kenya’s vice president David Okeyo said running was far too important for Kenya’s international image and economy to be allowed to be ruined by cheats.
“The impression that Kenyans are winning because they are taking performance enhancing drugs, it is not correct. There are isolated cases… and it does not mean that all Kenyans are winning because they are taking drugs,” he told AFP.
“We are very serious on the doping issue,” he said, pointing to international-standard testing facilities also in place for the Nairobi marathon, a race used by many hopefuls to attract sponsors and as a stepping-stone to major international road races.
“This shows a lot of transparency, we’re not trying to hide anything.
“Doping is a problem, a big concern worldwide, not only Kenya. I must say that, without being biased, that most of the Kenyans, they win very clean. That does not mean we are condoning doping. If you are found to have committed an offence you will be punished accordingly.”
Thirteen Kenyan athletes — none of them big names — tested positive between January 2012 and 2013, and last year the country was top of the IAAF’s list of most-tested nations, a standing touted by officials here as proof the measures were serious.
“Athletics is very important in the sense that it is the only sport that sells Kenya worldwide. It’s really marketing Kenya worldwide. Most of our athletes are good ambassadors,” Okeyo said.
Okeyo admitted the biggest challenge was educating local athletes, many of whom he said were unaware of the problem.
“Somebody says I am coughing, so they get an over-the-couter medicine, and they race and test positive. It is happening because of ignorance,” he said.
“The top brass athletes are well informed. The majority of the less-known athletes are not. But ignorance is not a defence so we have to educate them.”