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‘I cheat because others cheat’: Kenyan athlete on doping



At first Alex did not want to dope. The Kenyan runner wanted to compete clean, earn an honest living, and lift his family out of poverty through grit and determination.

But his resolve crumbled as he realised he could not match his opponents, athletes he knew were doping and beating the system set up to catch drug cheats.

Soon, Alex was boosting his performance with erythropoietin (EPO), a substance banned by the world doping watchdog but poorly regulated in Kenya.

“I had to use it, in order to earn a living. You cannot compete with people already using and expect to earn something reasonable,” said Alex, who spoke with AFP on condition of anonymity and asked that his name be changed.

“Sport today is not clean.”

Kenyans are legendary marathoners, making up 38 of the world’s top 100 runners in 2019. But the country’s anti-doping authorities have struggled to stamp out a culture of drug use in its fabled athletic fraternity.

Alex trains in Iten, hallowed ground for aspiring Kenyan runners who dream of following their idols from the high plateau above the Rift Valley to the Olympic podium and record books.

But most do not make the big league.

Nearly a thousand Kenyans earn a living competing in marathons across the globe, according to the Athletics Integrity Unit, runners whose times – though unnoteworthy at home – would make them stars anywhere else.

They are not taking home the tens of thousands on offer at major marathons but pick up a few hundred, maybe the odd thousand, in second and third-tier races.

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These prizes are fiercely coveted by the enormous pool of talented Kenyans. Placing anywhere high-up could support whole families for months, in a country where many live on little more than $1 a day.

It is among this class of competitor – professional grade, but not elite – that doping is most rampant and unchecked, athletes say.

“You don’t have to be an elite athlete, be on the national team, go to the big races, to make money,” said a pharmacist in Eldoret, a city near Iten, who sells EPO to runners for $20 (17 euros) a dose.

Kenya was forced to confront its doping problem in 2016 when a string of high-profile scandals almost saw the country blacklisted from the Olympic Games in Rio.

It scraped through, promising to stamp out cheating through tough new laws penalising users and dealers and a newly-established anti-doping agency (Adak).
Drug tests jumped ten-fold in a matter of years.

A blood testing laboratory approved by the World Anti-Doping Authority (Wada) opened in Nairobi in 2018. For the first time, Kenya was able to create biological passports for about 40 of its top athletes.

Big names – including Olympic gold medallists Jemima Sumgong and Asbel Kiprop – were among the Kenyan stars to test positive in the years after the Rio scare.

But a whole class of international-grade runners, one step below the best, have gone virtually undetected.

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These athletes are not subjected to regular testing by Adak, which does not have the funds or manpower to monitor such a huge pool of runners.

“It is simple: we need to do more tests,” Adak head Japhter Rugut told AFP.

Many race organisers cannot afford to run comprehensive drug tests for all competitors, so eschew it altogether.

Tony, another athlete who admits to doping, opts to compete in these races where scrutiny is low or non-existent. If there is testing in place, he avoids placing in the top three to evade suspicion, he said.

Tony trains in a squad of 15 runners in Iten – at least a quarter of whom are doping, he estimated.

“If people stop cheating, I’ll stop. I cheat because others have cheated,” said Tony, not his real name.

Alex, who started using EPO in 2017, said he had never been tested.

“In life, you have to take risks to win something reasonable,” he said.

Rugut said it was difficult to test “thousands and thousands” of athletes, so Adak was focusing on deterrence.

“If people think they can compete, and there is nobody to test them, they may be tempted,” he said.

Efforts to curb the supply of doping substances have been hamstrung in Kenya by lax regulation and the absence of a scheme to trace the drugs back to suppliers, hospitals and pharmacies.

Spot inspections are also rare, if ever.

“There’s no one there. There is no controlling body. It’s pretty easy as long as you have a license,” said the pharmacist in Eldoret, who declined to be named for fear of prosecution.

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He admitted to selling EPO to athletes, without prescription, for years, legally importing the hormone from India used to treat patients with anaemia.

But his real customers are runners seeking to boost the amount of oxygen being carried by their blood.

In a September 2018 report, WADA described doping in Kenya as largely “opportunistic” and unsophisticated, listing EPO, corticosteroids and nandrolone as the drugs of choice.

But there can be serious consequences to doping.

The pharmacist said he was aware of the risks of misusing EPO – heart attacks, stroke and high-blood pressure have been associated with its misuse – but athletes did not care.

“They do it anyway, and they want it to exist,” he said.

“We do it for the money. In Kenya, you can do anything for money.”

Tony said he knew there were dangers “and I could die anytime”.

“But I take the risk, because I have to take care of myself and my brothers and sisters.”

Many athletes are convinced there is no point going clean, because the system is rigged from the top down.

“In Kenya, most people are corrupt. To get rid of doping or cheating in athletics, you have to fight corruption first,” said Tony.


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Official video of Kenyan MPs participating in ‘Jerusalema Challenge’ released



The awaited video of Kenyan politicians dancing to the ‘Jerusalama’ hit song has finally been uploaded on their Kenya’s National Assembly YouTube.

This comes just a few weeks after Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo proposed this motion in parliament; hoping to be the first parliament in the world to take part in the challenge. And for a minute many assumed that this could not work; until the video finally surfaced on online on Wednesday, 21 October.

Probably because this challenge had already been exhausted by many judging from the many videos of the challenge circulating on social media.

Kenyan politicians participate in Jerusalema video

Anyway, whether you like it or not, Kenyan politicians have gone ahead to release a new video; showing off their dance moves in their ‘Jerusalama challenge.‘ In a video shared less than 2 hours ago, the many politicians are seen grooving to the South African hit song….. and we love it!


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Governor Kingi tell off DP Ruto over hustler movement




Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has torn into wheelbarrow initiatives by Deputy President William Ruto terming it a political gimmick that has no benefit to Kenyans.

While addressing Kilifi residents during this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations at Pwani University grounds the governor said Kenyans will only be freed from poverty, tribalism, and unemployment through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

“The same that are opposing the BBI are the ones going out to give out wheelbarrows as handouts. So they are blocking you from getting the benefits of the BBI and think that they can blindfold you with wheelbarrows,” he said.

Kingi who was in the company of Kilifi County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka said that the BBI report has outlined various interventions including increasing money to counties from the current 15 per cent they are receiving, a situation he said will improve the lives of the residents in counties.

“We have been pushing for the increase of funds to counties from the current 15 per cent and that has been addressed in the BBI report. But it baffles me that someone would go to an extent of opposing the document with all these interventions and then the only thing he gives is wheelbarrows. This is unfair and such people should be ignored,” the governor added.

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Kingi downplayed the hustler narrative saying that the DP is far away richer than the people he wants to lie to always.

“If you are hustler like him, then show me your chopper, your luxury houses not one and the luxury cars you own and then we shall know that you are like him. Other than that, then you are cheating yourself away,” he said.

He called on President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga to immediately release the contents of the BBI report to Kenyans so that the speculative agenda by the Tangatanga team can be silenced.

“If we continue to withhold the report, the prophets of doom will continue to speculate and continue to lie to Kenyans about its contents, I am asking the President and Mr Odinga to release the report,” he added.

Kingi also promised to help deliver and explain the BBI document to his residents, insisting that he will lead in ensuring that Kilifi gets to know the importance of what is contained in the document.

“I will move out as a Governor in 2022 and another person will come in but if BBI is not addressed then the challenges that are there will still exist. I will be in my most pains when after retirement, the only thing I will see in Kilifi is wheelbarrows. That is not what we want as Kilifi residents,” he said.

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Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee named the new Harambee Stars coach




Celebrated coach and media personality Jacob Ghost Mulee has made a return to the National team.

This comes just a day after Head coach Francis Kimanzi and his entire technical team was shown the door.

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) confirmed the appointment of Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee and has since unveiled him.

Mulee first assignment is to prepare the team that will face Comoros in AFCON Qualifier match that’s set to be played in November.

Kimanzi left the scene after he masterminded what had been tipped to be an unlikely friendly win against Zambia on October 9 at Nyayo Stadium.

He was appointed in 2019 to replace Sebastien Migne who he worked with as an assistant coach.

Mulee return reminds Kenyans when national team charges helped to qualify for the 2004 Afcon edition in Tunisia.

He is also credited to have mentored the current J1 League top scorer Michael Olunga and his appointment has provided an opportunity for the duo to work again at national level.

Under Nick Mwendwa Mulee becomes the fifth coach to have been appointed since he took office in 2016.

Stanley Okumbi took over in February 2016 and exited in October 2017 while Paul Put who led Kenya to Cecafa title took over in November 2017 and left in February 2018.

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Migne who led the country to the 2019 Afcon finals but, a Chan qualifying setback against Tanzania saw him part ways with the team on mutual consent paving the way for Kimanzi’s rise to the helm.

Kimanzi remained in charge from August 2019 to October 20, 2020, and he left just days after Mwendwa had secured another four-year term as the FKF president.

Mulee and his technical bench are expected to help Harambee Stars fight for back-to-back Afcon qualifications with two matches against Egypt and Togo already played.

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