NAIROBI, November 19- Kenyan marathon-star-turned-politician Wesley Korir has announced plans to criminalise doping, arguing drastic action was the only way to halt a worsening sporting crisis in his east African nation.
Korir, a Boston marathon champion in 2012 and now an elected MP, said his own investigations had unearthed evidence of “a big supply of drugs being provided by a cartel of people” among the east African nation’s fabled distance runners.
The call comes in the wake of last month’s shock revelation that the world’s current top female marathon runner, Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo, tested positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO during an out-of-competition anti-doping control.
“Unless we put in place a law to criminalise doping, we will have lost,” Korir told AFP, saying the legislation could include lifetime bans and fines for athletes and jail for doctors who administer performance-enhancing drugs.
“This is the right time to introduce this bill which I hope will be passed by the national assembly. The negative publicity the scandal has caused on Kenya is huge. We are not prepared to tarnish the integrity of Kenya.”
According to Korir, the supply of banned substances in Kenya was widespread.
“I have done investigations after Rita Jeptoo’s doping case came out and I have found that there is a cartel of doctors going round giving the athletes these performance-enhancing drugs. With the athletes being pushed to run faster times, there will be a tendency of some of them being tempted to dope.”
Korir accused Kenya’s sport bosses, including Athletics Kenya, of having done “absolutely nothing” despite a string of positive tests among Kenyan athletes in recent years.
“They continue to live in denial and they do not want to accept the reality that the issue is so serious. The system is so corrupt… the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should open a testing laboratory in Kenya to safeguard the process,” he said.
– Dirty doctors –
He said criminalisation will not only “create a lot of fear among the athletes” — and hence make them think twice about cheating in the first place — but will also force offenders to cooperate with doping investigations.
“Currently there is no law that forces any athlete to give up information on who is providing them with drugs. They need to be made to give the names of the suppliers,” he said. “We need to have a law that if you give an athlete drugs, you should be put in jail.”
Kenya has been under pressure from WADA to take action over doping after a string of positive tests in recent years.
But Jeptoo’s positive test — making her the first big name Kenyan athlete to have been caught — has stunned Kenya, whose naturally gifted distance runners are a major source of national pride and a major money spinner in the high-altitude Rift valley region.
Jeptoo is currently awaiting the result of a test of her B sample, although if it too is positive she faces a lengthy suspension and being stripped of her most recent titles.