Kenya faces threat of athletics ban over doping ‘crisis’

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Kenya faces the possibility of being barred from international athletics due to doping problems that have now reached “crisis” levels, according to the country’s authorities.

The threat of an imminent ban by track and field’s governing body World Athletics, which would likely have repercussions for several medal hopefuls at next year’s world championships and the 2024 Paris Olympics, was admitted by the country’s sports ministry. in a statement issued Thursday.

In it, the ministry said there was a “doping crisis” in the East African nation and said sports minister Ababu Namwamba, who was in Qatar for the soccer World Cup, had written to the president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, and “urged” the ruler. “No to Ban Kenya” body.

“The government is taking strong steps to protect and uphold the integrity of athletics,” the Kenyan Ministry of Sports said. The Kenyan government was “treating it as a matter of high strategic national interest,” the ministry said.

The ministry said it was working to resolve doping issues in an apparent effort to avoid a sanction.

World Athletics is scheduled to hold a meeting of its Decision-Making Council in Rome next week, when the Kenya issue will reportedly be discussed.

A ban could lead Kenya to a situation similar to Russia, where the sanction applies to the national athletics federation and athletes are forced to apply to compete as neutrals and not under their nation’s flag at major championships. . The Russian athletics federation has been suspended since 2015 due to a massive state-sponsored doping scandal.

Kenya finished third in the track and field medal table at the Tokyo Olympics last year with four golds, four silvers and two bronzes. Only the United States won more medals in track and field. Kenya collected another 10 medals at this year’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon. Once again, only the United States gained more.

A sanction on the Kenyan federation would affect the likes of marathon world record holder and two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, who is among the greatest long-distance runners in history. Kipchoge has indicated that he will seek his third consecutive marathon gold at the Paris Games.

Many other star runners would be affected, including Olympic and world 800m champion Emmanuel Korir, two-time Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon and two-time 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri. There are also many Kenyans who regularly win races on the Diamond League track circuit and in the major marathon series.

Kenya’s doping problems have been documented for at least a decade and its national anti-doping agency, which proved ineffective and was accused of being corrupt, received a major overhaul in 2016. Authorities have largely blamed the problems on small groups of what they refer to as criminals who make money by selling banned substances to runners in Kenya. Kenya has moved to make doping a criminal offence.

But the reality is that Kenya’s anti-doping and athletics authorities have failed after years of warnings to curb doping, which is often concentrated in the country’s remote cities where it runs at high altitudes, far from authorities, and where the controls are poor. At least 45 Kenyan athletes have been sanctioned for doping this year, the highest number in Kenya in years. Another 20 doping cases involving Kenyans are currently under investigation.

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