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Kenya athletes welcome new doping initiative

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after winning the Men’s Marathon athletics event of the 2016 Olympic Games at the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016

ELDORET, Kenya, Jan 16 – Top Kenyan athletes on Monday welcomed a new initiative to stop doping, which has tarnished their image, in which they will be monitored by specially appointed doctors.

Athletics Kenya announced last week that from January 17, elite athletes will be under the watch of a select team of doctors, who have been appointed by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Athletics Kenya.

The sports ministry organised a meeting Monday in the western city of Eldoret to explain the new initiative to scores of the country’s top sportsmen and women.

“I am so happy with the new initiative. It shows that Athletics Kenya is serious with tackling this issue of doping,” reigning men’s Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge told AFP.

“It will be easy for us now to communicate with these doctors before we take any medicine when the need arises,” added fellow marathoner Jemima Sumgong, who won Kenya’s first women’s gold medal over the distance in Rio.

Athletics Kenya chief Jackson Tuwei warned that any athlete who failed to comply would not be selected to represent Kenya in international competitions.

“It is absolutely mandatory for these elite athletes to go through this network. It is painful, it is strict, it is critical … but we have to do it,” Tuwei said.

“Forty-nine athletes have been found to have violated the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code in the past five years but were cautioned according to the laws of the land and WADA code.”

He said the initial team of five “trustable Kenyan doctors” were picked by the IAAF to “take care of Kenya’s top runners and limit bad medical practices and doping-promoting behaviours by some Kenyan health professionals”.

The doctors will prepare a monthly report about the athletes which will be sent to the head of the IAAF medical and anti-doping commission.

The initial list of 109 elite Kenyan athletes to take part in the programme includes Kipchoge, Sumgong, two-time Olympic 800m and world record holder David Rudisha and world javelin champion Julius Yego.

Others are the women’s 5000m Olympic champion, Vivian Cheruiyot and three-time steeplechase world champion Ezekiel Kemboi.