Over the past five years, almost 70 Kenyan athletes have been banned for using illegal substances. Marathoner Titus Ekiru, who has received a 10-year ban from competitive athletics, is one of the more recent cases.
Ekiru attributes his doping ban to medication he had to take due to an injury. He firmly believes that thorough investigations should be carried out, as some athletes may be innocent, while others knowingly use banned substances.
“I would like to convey to the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) the importance of conducting thorough and comprehensive investigations,” he says. “It is crucial to recognize that there are athletes who are genuinely innocent, while others knowingly engage in the use of banned substances. In my case, I received a severe 10-year ban, whereas some athletes who intentionally used prohibited drugs were handed much shorter bans, typically lasting 3-4 years. It is essential to consider the circumstances surrounding each case. In my situation, I used medication due to an injury, unaware that it was considered a banned substance in athletics.”
In addition to the ban, the Anti doping Integrity Unit also wiped Ekiru’s results in several races from the record and ordered him to forfeit any prizes awarded.
Ekiru, who maintains his innocence, suggests that the Kenyan government should establish a centralized healthcare system for athletes to prevent inadvertent doping cases. This system would provide proper medical care and guidance to athletes, particularly when they face injuries.
Kenyan athletics legend, Tecla Chemabwai, suggests that there is more to the rising doping cases. Chemabawai, the first Kenyan woman to participate in the Olympics, believes sports agents who exploit athletes for financial gain are a significant part of the problem.
“Many of our athletes may be unwittingly involved in doping practices, primarily because we have permitted the entry of agents who now oversee the management of our athletes. Unfortunately, these agents often prioritize their interests and exploit our athletes, turning them into commodities for profit. I firmly believe that government intervention is necessary to address this issue, as it can potentially shield many athletes from falling into this problem.”
Chemabwai advocates for the training of local agents to manage Kenyan athletes, ensuring that they are well-informed and protected from doping-related issues. She believes that Kenya, with its abundant talent, can maintain its sporting excellence with this approach.
She also says that athletics officials must focus on training the athletes on other matters like managing their income and other resources accrued from their sweat.