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Kenya is making strides against doping amidst hurdles

With the Tokyo Olympics looming less than a year away, Kenya is confident it will avoid a repeat of the Rio Games controversy

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Kenya is making strides against doping amidst hurdles
Marathon runners carry out a 'speed-work' along the back roads Iten, known colloquially as the 'world's running capital', legendary for producing some of Kenya's most elite athletes and a training ground for other international top distance runners. - Of the thousands of professional runners registered with Kenya's athletic federation, only a small handful of the most elite competitors are regularly screened by the national doping watchdog Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK). (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

Kenya suffered international embarrassment in 2016 when a string of doping scandals brought the country famed for its distance runners within a whisker of disqualification from the Rio Olympics.

“It was a time when Kenya faced an enormous challenge in terms of the very integrity of our sports,” said Japhter Rugut, who heads the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK), established in the wake of the scandal.

Kenya scraped through to Rio. But while its sporting authorities promised to clean up their act, Kenyan athletes have proved harder to convince.

A year after the scare, Jemima Sumgong — who in Rio won Kenya’s first-ever Olympic gold in the women’s marathon — tested positive for the banned substance erythropoietin (EPO) and was suspended.

Kenya is making strides against doping amidst hurdles
(Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

In 2018, three-time world champion and Olympic 1,500 metre winner, Asbel Kiprop, tested positive for EPO and was also banned.

Between 2004 and August 2018, 138 Kenyan athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, according to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report published in September 2018.

The report concluded that nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, corticosteroids and EPO were the substances most used by local athletes.

However, it found there was “no evidence of an institutionalised system” of doping in Kenya.

Thirty-six Kenyan runners are currently suspended, according to the Athletics Integrity Unit.

Building awareness –

Nevertheless, efforts to clean up the sport are beginning to bear fruit.

Since its inception, the number of anti-doping tests conducted by ADAK has mushroomed more than 10-fold, from about 100 in 2016 to 1,150 in 2018.

It has created biological passports for about 40 elite athletes to track their data over time, a development made possible by the opening of a WADA-approved blood testing laboratory in Nairobi in 2018.

ADAK, under its slogan “Stay Clean, Win Right”, has also launched a nation-wide awareness-raising program aimed at athletes, coaches and medical staff.

In line with International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) guidelines, Kenyan athletes selected for the 2019 World Championships starting in Doha in September will be subject to a minimum of four blood and urine tests.

Kenya is making strides against doping amidst hurdles
Lab-technicians takes reagents from cold-storage at Lancet laboratories, the only World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) accredited facility for eastern Africa, in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on June 7, 2019. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

“Qualification will be done on time and testing,” says Jackson Tuwei, President of the Kenyan Athletics Federation.

“We have made this very clear to all our athletes that those who want to go to worlds, must also qualify by being tested.”

But beyond the elite level, tackling doping remains a monumental challenge.

There are 4,000 top-level athletes registered with the athletics federation — four times more than in France for example — stretching oversight resources.

These athletes see running — and winning — as the only way out of a life of poverty, and go undetected by the checks and controls as Kenya focuses on its elite athletes.

“There are easily more than 500 top marathon runners… so it is difficult for the federation, given its limited resources, to monitor and control each athlete,” says specialist journalist Elias Makori.

“Every weekend, there are dozens of Kenyans winning marathons all over the world.”

‘A culture of honesty’ –

“In East Africa, unlike anywhere else in the world, hundreds and hundreds of professional athletes make a very good living from road running,” says Brett Clothier, director of the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), a watchdog set up to police anti-doping in athletics. 

“Many of these athletes are never tested out of competition.”

“Such athletes have the motivation, opportunity and financial means to boost themselves, and, therefore, there is a high demand for doping products.”

For Brother Colm O’Connell, legendary coach of two-time Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha, the education of athletes is at the heart of combating the scourge.

Kenya is making strides against doping amidst hurdles
A pharmacist is interviewed in Nairobi, where he admits doping has become a common practice in Kenya, where it is very easy to get EPO. – This pharmacist, who requested anonymity, said he began in the early 2010s to help athletes to boost. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

“I also think we must instil in our young people, as they grow up through the ranks, becoming athletes, we must instil a culture of honesty, fair-play, that you can win clean,” he said.

Other significant hurdles remain.

No one is tracing doping substances stocked by pharmacies and hospitals. The regulation of athletics agents is lax. Allegations of corruption, too, have marred efforts to clean up the sport.

Even identifying athletes can sometimes prove problematic, with runners registered under different names from one document to the next.

Political support is also not assured. Kenya’s parliament this year cut funding for ADAK by nearly 15 per cent, trimming its budget to around $2.5 million.

With the Tokyo Olympics looming less than a year away, Kenya is confident it will avoid a repeat of the Rio Games controversy, even if more work needs to be done.

“For now, there are signs that our joint efforts are working and that we are on the right track,” says Clothier. 

“The main thing is that the struggle, and close collaboration, with AIU continues.”

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FIFA bans ex-Nigeria football coach for match fixing

Siasia was also handed a fine of 50,000 US dollars

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FIFA on Friday banned former Nigeria Football Federation official Samson Siasia for life after the body’s ethics panel found him guilty of taking bribes in connection with match fixing. 

In a statement, the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s independent ethics committee said the probe targeting Siasia stemmed from a wider investigation involving Wilson Raj Perumal, who has confessed to international match-fixing.

The probe that began in February found Siasia “guilty of having accepted that he would receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics,” the statement said.

In addition to being banned from all football related activity for life, Siasia was also handed a fine of 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,000, 46,000 euros).

Siasia, a former striker, also briefly coached Nigeria’s men’s national football team. 

FIFA did not detail the nature of ties to Perumal, a Singaporean national who was arrested and jailed in Finland in 2011 for fixing top-tier football games there. 

Perumal later collaborated with match fixing investigators.

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Sebastien Migne resigns as coach of Kenya’s national football team

Frenchman Migne took charge of the team in May 2018 and took Kenya to their first AFCON finals appearance in 15 years

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Sebastien Migne resigns as head coach of Kenya's national football team
Kenya's coach (now-former) Sebastian Migne. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Kenya’s football federation said on Monday coach Sebastien Migne was leaving by “mutual consent” eight days after his team were eliminated from qualifying for the 2020 African Nations Championship.

Kenya were knocked out of the tournament, for teams made up only of African-based players, on penalties on August 4 after both legs of their first-round tie with neighbours and arch-rivals Tanzania ended goalless. 

Frenchman Migne took charge of the Harambee Stars in May 2018 and steered the side to a first African Cup of Nations finals appearance in 15 years.

Hampered by injuries to key players, Kenya were eliminated at the group stage despite beating Tanzania, 3-2.

“Football Kenya Federation and Harambee Stars head coach Sebastian Migne have agreed to terminate the coach’s contract on mutual consent” said  Barry Otieno, the federation’s acting general secretary.

“Consequently, FKF and Migne have agreed on a settlement for the coach, over a period of time.”

Otieno said the re-organisation and appointment for a new coaching team was already underway.

Kenya play Egypt in the preliminary round of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cairo in November.

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South Africa appoints Enoch Nkwe as Proteas’ interim coach

Enoch Nkwe had a moderate first-class playing record, scoring three centuries and averaging 28.06 with the bat in 42 matches

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S.A appoints Enoch Nkwe as Proteas' interim coach | News Central TV
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Enoch Nkwe was named Friday as the Proteas’ interim team director for a tour of India next month.

“It is a tremendous honour and privilege to lead the Proteas as the interim team director,” the 36-year-old former all-rounder told the Cricket South Africa (CSA). 

“It is a special moment for me and my family and I will do my best to make a difference in this interim period.”

Nkwe collected two trophies in his first season in charge of the Gauteng Lions franchise, as well as coaching the Jozi Stars T20 team which won the inaugural Mzansi Super League. 

He was named coach of the year at last weekend’s annual awards function.

He takes over from Ottis Gibson, whose contract as head coach was not renewed after South Africa’s poor World Cup campaign earlier this year.

CSA announced last Sunday that the position of team director, with responsibilities for all aspects of the national team, would replace that of a head coach. The team director will report to a director of cricket. 

It is hoped that permanent appointments in both positions will be made before England tour South Africa at the end of the year.

Acting director of cricket Corrie van Zyl said Nkwe’s appointment was “a result of his merits and balanced approach”.

“He is someone who complements the direction that will be taken by the team going forward,” said Van Zyl.

Nkwe had a moderate first-class playing record, scoring three centuries and averaging 28.06 with the bat in 42 matches. 

He also took 29 wickets before a wrist injury ended his playing career. 

He has coached the Gauteng provincial team and been an assistant coach to the Dutch national team and the South African women’s team.

The tour includes South Africa’s first three Test matches in the newly-created Test championship when the team will be captained by Faf du Plessis who was named SA Cricketer of the Year last weekend. 

The Tests will be preceded by three Twenty20 internationals for which no captain has yet been named.

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