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Kenya facing possible athletics ban over increased doping cases

Kenya’s three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop was suspended after testing positive for EPO. File Photo

Nairobi, Kenya | Xinhua | The Kenya government is making last-ditch efforts to avert a possible international ban from athletics on Friday due to the increased cases of doping that will see the country miss, among others, the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) and World Athletics are set to meet in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on Friday to review the state of doping around the world with the deteriorating Kenya doping situation high on the agenda.

Kenya has been listed as a Category A (nations with the highest prevalence of doping) country for the last five years.

So far in 2022, 45 athletes have been sanctioned for Anti-Doping Rule Violations by the AIU and Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK), with over 20 other cases being under review in the worst year for the sport since the crisis escalated in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

On Thursday, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Sport, Ababu Namwamba, assured the government was taking stern measures to protect and uphold the integrity of athletics and sports in general.

“We cannot allow our nation to be banned because of the actions of some greedy unethical individuals. We will target and deal decisively with the criminals and their syndicates. We must work together to eradicate doping and cheating from athletics and sports in general,” Namwamba said in the statement issued in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Wednesday.

The minister has written to World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, promising the government will invest more in the anti-doping effort with the local outlet, Daily Nation, reporting an amount of 5 million U.S. dollars each year for the next five years.

However, local athletics administrators who have spoken to Xinhua maintain the commitment and efforts have come too late to save the country from the looming suspension.

“We will likely face a three-year suspension and strict conditions to follow before being readmitted because we have not taken this issue seriously despite all the warnings we have been given,” an anonymous official told Xinhua on Thursday.

“Authorities are angry that our athletes continue being caught cheating because we are not doing enough to stop those supplying, selling, or dealing with these drugs that are usually strictly controlled substances,” he added.

Besides reigning in on the suppliers and merchants of the banned substances, WADA, AIU, World Athletics, ADAK, and Athletics Kenya have been calling on the government to prosecute individuals accused of running what has become a black industry.

A local athletics official said they have presented names and evidence of foreigners and locals doing this to authorities and shared all the intelligence, but nothing is being done.

“ADAK and AK do not have powers to arrest or charge, issue passports, work permits, residency permits or visas to these people who are coming in this country to dope our athletes,” the official told Xinhua on the phone.

Should Kenya be banned on Friday, those with knowledge on the matter expect World Athletics to announce that the country’s athletes will be free to compete under a neutral flag at international events subject to the clearance protocols in place.

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