Athletics Kenya, the national governing body, has decided to change its approach towards the sport of Athletics in the country.
Kenyan athletics is undergoing a major shift in priorities as the country looks to clean up its image in the wake of numerous doping scandals. Kenya has been hit hard by drug cheats, with 40% of all athletes who failed drug tests globally in 2022 coming from the East African nation. World Athletics, the sport’s governing body, even considered banning Kenya from international competition due to the severity of the problem. While the country managed to avoid a ban, it is now working hard to repair its reputation and restore confidence in its athletes.
Athletics Kenya, the national governing body, has decided to change its approach to the sport. Rather than prioritizing winning medals, the focus is now on protecting clean athletes and cracking down on doping. According to Barnabas Korir, Athletics Kenya’s youth development director, the federation is “focusing mainly on protecting the clean athletes because it’s a fact that we have athletes who are winning fairly.” To achieve this, Athletics Kenya is taking a different approach to selecting athletes for competitions. Instead of simply choosing the strongest and fastest runners, they are also considering the athletes with the lowest risk of doping.
World Athletics President Sebastien Coe visited Kenya in January to discuss the doping problem. While he expressed confidence that there was no cover-up or state-sponsored doping in Kenya, he also emphasized the need for continued vigilance. Korir echoed this sentiment, vowing that “even the top athletes who think they can get away by cheating the system will be smoked out before the end of the year.”
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This new approach is part of a broader effort to clean up the sport in Kenya. The government has committed $25 million to anti-doping efforts over the next five years, and a steering committee will be set up to ensure that Athletics Kenya and the national anti-doping agency use these resources effectively. The goal is to reduce the number of doping cases significantly and regain Kenya’s positive global image.
Kenya is one of seven countries classified as a Category A federation, meaning it is considered to have the highest doping risk. To address this, athletes must undergo at least three tests in the 10 months leading up to a major event to be eligible to compete. World Athletics has set a target of at least 3,000 tests through the anti-doping agency of Kenya this year.
Athletics Kenya is also expanding its testing pool by using local events to register athletes with the Athletics Integrity Unit. By increasing the number of athletes in the testing pool, the chances of catching drug cheats are higher. However, while the new approach is encouraging, there is still much work to be done. Kenya has been a Category A federation for five years and has yet to meet the standards required to move to a lower category. Athletics Kenya is determined to change this, but it will require a sustained effort from all parties involved.
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