Testing time for Kenyan athletes

The domination of athletes from the Caribbean island-country in sprints and those from the East African nation in long distance running

Written by Nihal Koshie | Published: July 31, 2013 1:25:32 am

Even as aftershocks of top Jamaican sprinters failing dope tests were being felt,the International Athletics Federation released statistics last week putting Kenyans atop the list of those subjected to maximum tests — 348 or 14.7 per cent of those conducted in 2012.

The domination of athletes from the Caribbean island-country in sprints and those from the East African nation in long distance running,has for long inspired awe.

But now the needle of suspicion trained on an alleged systematic doping set-up in these athletics powerhouses,more so Jamaica,does not seem unfounded in light of the recent revelations. Kenyan athletes too attracted a fair amount of negative publicity after a dozen of them tested positive last year.

Since it has now been revealed that the bursts of speed that Jamaicans possess cannot be attributed only to their staple of salt fish and yam or their long,muscular legs but also to something more dubious,Kenya’s natural talent will also be under increased scrutiny.

The Kenyans,since the days of Kip Kieno in the late 1960s,have prided themselves in producing champions from their high-altitude conveyor belt at Iten,located in the Great Rift Valley,which has also been the training base of Great Britain’s former world marathon champion Paula Radcliffe. Indian women long and middle distance runners Kavita Raut and Preeja Sreedharan and Sudha Singh,the national steeplechase champion,had stints in Kenya ahead of the London Olympics.

Training in the clean but thin air at 2,400 metres above sea level had helped the genetically gifted long-limbed runners to stay ahead of competition. Or so had been the belief.

In August,Kenya’s former world junior champion Mathew Kisorio,revealed that doping was widespread in his country,after he tested positive adding to fears that malpractices had gained prevalence in training camps encouraged by a lax testing system as competition to excel in running to escape poverty became fiercer.

The anti-doping statistics for tests conducted by IAAF have Russia,United States,Ethiopia,Jamaica and former Soviet bloc nations Ukraine and Belarus trailing Kenya. A table that only emphasises that Kenyan athletes’ reputation remains under a cloud.

Nihal is a senior assistant editor based in New Delhi

nihal.koshie@expressindia.com

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