NAIROBI, August 26- It was the news Kenya dreaded after world governing body, IAAF, confirmed sprinters Joy Zakari and Francesca Koki have accepted provisional suspension for doping violations at the Beijing World Championships.
The thunderbolt news on Wednesday casts a dark shadow over the performances of a nation that has shot to the top of the standings at the biennial global showpiece with the fall-out set to adversely rock the country’s sport.
“The IAAF has this evening (26 August 2015) announced that two Kenyan athletes, Koki MANUNGA and Joyce ZAKARY, have accepted provisional suspensions following positive samples provided in Beijing on the 20th and 21st of August respectively.
“The IAAF Rules dictate that the IAAF is only able to make a public disclosure once this provisional suspension is in place.
“These targeted tests were conducted by the IAAF at the athlete hotels during the pre-competition phase. The IAAF will not discuss the details of the cases as they progress through the results management process,” the damning statement from the world body read in full.
Local website, Sports News Arena, whose reporter Everlyn Watta is in the Chinese capital, was the first to publish the story early Wednesday reporting the pair who featured in the heats “May have failed doping tests that came to fore soon after their qualifying runs here in Beijing.”
It is believed the two failed tests for Nandrolone, a masking agent.
Athletics Kenya (AK) finally released a statement on the matter after declining to comment from Tuesday night when the news broke.
“Athletics Kenya can confirm that it has been informed by the IAAF of the positive tests returned by two of its athletes, Koki MANUNGA and Joyce ZAKARY. The athletes have accepted the provisional suspension.
“Athletics Kenya has already met with the IAAF and the athletes involved, and has begun investigating the situation which led to these results and appropriate follow-up action will be taken in Kenya.
“In the meantime, Athletics Kenya will provide full support and cooperation to the IAAF during results management process, and will not be providing further comment at this stage,” the federation’s communication said in full.
Zakari, 29 burned the tartan to win her heat in 50.41, a new national record that looks set to be chalked off if the reports are true before she went missing from Tuesday’s semi finals and was subsequently disqualified.
It was her second successive national standard performance after she broke Rose Waithera’s 51.56 set at the 1984 Olympics by winning the Kenya Championships in 51.14.
Her unexplained absence from the semis prompted speculation and later that evening; allegations started filtering out of China she had been informed of the failed test moments before Nicholas Bett made history with a first ever gold short distance gold medal in the men 400m Hurdles.
Koki bombed out during her women 400m Hurdles heat, finishing seventh in 58.96.
Should official confirmation come, it will a devastating blow to the country that has dominated the last two days of the biennial showpiece, winning four gold, three silver and two bronze medals to storm to the top of the charts.
Throughout Tuesday night, efforts by Capital Sport to contact Kinyua, federation president, Isaiah Kiplagat and AK vice-president in charge of competition, David Okeyo, to confirm the development proved futile.
It is understood the Kenyan officials were locked in marathon talks last night and could not be found at the team hotel the following morning by local journalists in Beijing- another glaring indication all is not well in camp.
Use of the same substance forced the withdrawal of Zakari’s Kenya Prisons teammate, Elizabeth Muthuka, from the Beijing 2008 Olympics after she was caught after doping tests conducted at the events Trials in Nairobi.
Stringent doping control was present during the August 1 Beijing Trials and its effectiveness will be called to question after the pair were entered and cleared to compete in China despite AK’s vehement assurances of extra vigilance after the country was subject to intense doping scrutiny after the explosive ARD documentary aired on the same day.
On Tuesday evening, the online edition of UK’s Guardian published an article saying Kenyan officials were warned of doping tests.
“Some Kenyan athletes were warned of unannounced doping tests and a banned runner accused athletics officials of demanding money to hide positive tests, according to the German state broadcaster ARD.
“In the latest report, Frimin Kiplagat Kipchoge, a former runner who works with athletes, said some testers called up athletes before their visits and were willing to reschedule if they were not available,” part of the story read.
“Ronald Kipchumba, who is banned and who tested positive for blood-boosting EPO in 2012, told ARD some athletics officials in the country were also demanding money from them to bury positive tests,” the Guardian added.
The positive effects of Nandrolone include muscle growth, appetite stimulation and increased red blood cell production and bone density and is directly detectable in hair or indirectly detectable in urine by testing for the presence of 19-norandrosterone, a metabolite.
It is used as a masking agent by athletes intent on cheating their way to improved performances.