Athletics: Documentary claims doping is widespread in running powerhouse Kenya

The agent of disgraced Kenyan marathoner Rita Jeptoo, Federico Rosa stands on the dock on July 6 at the court in Nairobi's district of Kibera.
The agent of disgraced Kenyan marathoner Rita Jeptoo, Federico Rosa stands on the dock on July 6 at the court in Nairobi's district of Kibera. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - Athletics powerhouse Kenya are once again in the eye of a doping storm just a month out from the Aug 5-21 Olympic Games after the latest investigation by German television channel ARD and The Sunday Times.

Saturday's documentary alleges that doping is rife at the elite training centre in Iten.

Previous joint research by ARD and the British newspaper led to the banning of the Russian athletics' team from the Games for state-sponsored doping.

Over the past three years, some 40 Kenyan athletes have failed doping tests, shredding their reputation for probity and laying bare the reality behind their reputation as the most dominant middle- to long-distance running nation in the world.

The allegations will come as a major blow as it follows only weeks after Kenyan lawmakers passed into law - after being threatened with a similar sanction as the Russians by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) - legislation making it a criminal act to either dope or to supply such products.

The documentary, largely filmed with a hidden camera, says it successfully infiltrated one of their team posing as an athlete into the training centre which is a favoured spot for distance runners, both Kenyan and European, as it is at high altitude 2,400 metres above sea level.

The documentary shows images of boxes of the endurance-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO) on the inside of the training centre and used syringes dumped in a bin.

EPO is shown to be widely available in the pharmacies around the centre whilst two doctors are only too willing to propose supplying the journalist posing as an athlete with doping products.

One of the two doctors claims to have supplied "more than 50" athletes, including three British runners, based on his guarantee he could dramatically improve their performances in "three months".

"Even if the athletes are subjected to doping tests they will find nothing," says the doctor. "That is what the top-level athletes take."

The same doctor, according to ARD, when approached again, retracted his claims and said he had nothing to do with doping and to have made up supplying the products.

However, both he and the other doctor featured have since been arrested by Kenyan police according to ARD.

A man said to be the coach of an Olympic champion, appearing with his face hidden, confirms the claims made in the documentary.

"The great majority of the athletes who appear out of nowhere are doped," he says.

The chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, Nicole Sapstead, said the report was "of grave concern and of significant interest", adding that it was investigating the claims.

"I can confirm that this evidence is being treated with the utmost importance and urgency, and two UKAD staff are currently in Kenya pursuing a number of lines of enquiry," she said in a statement.

Japhter Rugut, head of the Kenyan anti-doping agency, said the revelations were "very shocking".

"We can see that we have a lot of problems at grassroots level and we will work with the police so as to weed out all those implicated in these criminal activities, both sports people and doctors, who will have to answer for their actions," he told ARD. "We want to go to Rio with a clean team."