Kenya in fresh dope claim

Undercover TV documentary reveals drugs in open supply at elite training centre in Iten

BERLIN • Athletics powerhouse Kenya is 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. The reality behind their reputation as the most dominant middle- to long-distance running nation in the world was also laid bare.

The allegations will come as a major blow as it follows just weeks after Kenyan lawmakers passed into law a legislation making it a criminal act to either dope or to supply such products.

CLAMPING DOWN

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.

JAPHTER RUGUT, head of Kenya's anti-doping agency, on the revelations of widespread doping in its elite training centre in Iten.

This after Kenyan athletes were threatened with a similar sanction as the Russians by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

The documentary, largely filmed with a hidden camera, says it successfully infiltrated one of their teams posing as an athlete in the training centre.

The centre is a favoured spot for distance runners, both Kenyan and European, as it is at high-altitude, about 2,400m 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 rubbish bin.

EPO is shown to be widely available in the pharmacies around the centre while 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 or 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 (UKAD), 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 Kenya's 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."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Kenya in fresh dope claim'. Print Edition | Subscribe