Officials look to cleaning up Kenyan athletics

Winning medals is “no longer the priority” as Kenyan athletics looks to clean up its image when it comes to drug cheats.

The country has seen a growing number of athletes serving bans for doping – ac­counting for 40% of the total number of athletes who failed drug tests globally in 2022.

In­deed, the situation is so dire that a potential ban from international competition was discussed by World Athletics, the sport’s gov­erning body, with Kenya’s sports minister forced to plead for more time at a council meeting in Rome last November.

Kenya evaded a ban, but the East African athletics powerhouse finds itself on an uncomfort­able journey as it tries to repair its once glittering global image.

With the track and field sea­son getting underway, national governing body Athletics Kenya is approaching August’s World Athletics Championships in Hungary with caution, and a very different approach to the medal table.

“The results at the championships are no longer the priori­ty,” Barnabas Korir, Athletics Kenya youth development director, told BBC Sport Africa.

“The Federation is focusing mainly on protecting the clean athletes because it’s a fact that we have athletes who are winning fairly.

“We would rather take runners who are considered weak, the re­sults will not matter as long as they are running clean.

“We can no longer just focus on winning medals.”

Sports minister, Ababu Nam­wamba, is expected to set up a steering committee that will ensure Athletics Kenya and the national anti-doping agency utilise allocated resources properly.

The government has commit­ted $25m to clean up the sport over the next five years, but Korir knows failing to tackle the problem could prove costly in other ways.

“We have to reduce the numbers significantly so as to regain our positive global image,” he added. —BBC

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