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Kenyan runners feel heat of stringent anti-doping campaign

By  Ben Ochieng (Xinhua)

19:56, June 26, 2013

NAIROBI, June 26 (Xinhua) -- The anti-doping campaign is getting serious and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has made it mandatory for all major local and international races to carry out dope-testing.

Winners of local and international races, especially those that attract big money, have to be tested before prize money is released.

Kenyan athletes, known everywhere for their scintillating performance, top list of those who have recently been placed on the radar of the premier world's anti-doping body, WADA.

Kenyan athletes have lately been in the news for the wrong reasons. Cross-country legend John Ngugi became the first Kenyan athlete to serve a ban after he refused to take a random test.

The IAAF banned him for four years, and only a successful appeal saw the ban lifted, by which time he was already a spent force.

Sprinter Simeon Kemboi made a comeback after serving a two-year ban. He had previously been sent home after testing positive during the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney.

Hurdler Eric Keter also failed a drugs test while three-time Boston Marathon champion Cosmas Ndeti tested positive.

Drugs are a pressing problem in athletics and there is hardly a championship that ends minus a suspected drug case.

Former world marathon record holder Paul Tergat has been very vocal that those who taint the sport must be weeded out, but has also been categorical that those who conduct drug tests must ensure innocent athletes are not unfairly accused of cheating.

A number of reasons have been given for the high of positive tests recorded in recent times.

"One reason is the high number of substances that are blacklisted as performance enhancing," Athletics Kenya Second Vice-President Paul Mutwii told Xinhua in an interview Tuesday.

"There are hundreds of substances classified as drugs and some of them are found in the course of our everyday activities, thus making it easy for the athletes to consume them hence susceptible to failing a drug test."

There is also room for ambiguity as the testing methods are not foolproof. It is very difficult to tell if the high levels of say testosterone found in the body are as a result of using drugs, normal body activities or even treatment.

In fact, when American sprinter Dennis Mitchell's drug test showed him to be having high levels of testosterone; he attributed it to having had sex the night before!

"Kenyan athletes must be extra careful about what they ingest. It is highly probable that most of the doping cases are rounded with innocence and the culprits might have consumed the drugs unknowingly," says athletics coach Stephen Mwaniki.

They should treat it as a wake-up call and strive to learn more about banned substances. A number of Kenyans innocently buy banned substances over the counter due to lack of information.

The case of Ndeti is a prime example as he sought to treat a cold using Cofta, a cough syrup bought over the counter, without knowing that it contained banned ingredients. Athletes therefore ought to step up awareness campaigns.

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