Athletics Kenya Looks To Establish Drug-Testing Lab

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

In an effort to show commitment and the necessary dedication to addressing the problem of doping in the sport that the country is most famous for, Athletics Kenya (AK) has discussed the possibility of setting up a drug-testing lab in Nairobi with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The East African country has produced countless middle and long distance runners of outstanding quality, but the shadow of doping threatens to ruin a solid reputation built on years of success and hard work.

A number of Kenyan athletes have been found guilty of doping in recent years, with dozens culpable, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has now given the country an ultimatum, threatening a four-year ban unless serious efforts are made to rid Kenyan athletics of drug cheats.

Drug-Testing Lab in the works

This is why the country’s authority on athletics is pushing for a drug-testing lab in the capital, according to AK chief executive Isaac Mwangi, but it is not a simple operation to find a facility sufficiently sophisticated with regards to WADA specifications.

“They have been assessing some of the laboratories around here, especially within the medical facilities,” Mwangi revealed, according to Reuters.

Mwangi added that a lack of funds is hampering the potential for a lab in Nairobi, with all urine samples currently sent abroad for testing, which is not ideal.

“We also don’t have the capacity to do systematic (testing), that requires a lot of money and resources and we don’t have that at the moment,” he added. “We feel that education is the key. Education is what will ensure change and to ensure that a young athlete growing up is not going to be influenced to use performance-enhancing substances,” he concluded.

According to The Independent, samples from Kenyan athletes are currently flown five hours to Doha in Qatar for testing, while samples of other sportsmen and women in Kenya are sent to a lab in South Africa.

This would be a thing of the past if a Nairobi-based lab is established, which would make testing a far easier and efficient process.

Pressure from WADA

The chairman of the National Olympic Committee Of Kenya, Kipchoge Keino, recently expressed his disappointment with his government in relation to the way they have reacted to doping in Kenyan athletics, stressing that a threatened four-year ban from WADA needed to be taken seriously.

According to Reuters, Keino advocated for the introduction of new laws to criminalise those involved in doping, while cracking down on all elements that support such cheating in the sport with vigour and determination.

“That way, we shall convince the world of our commitment to fighting this crime. Anything else is just sugar coating,” stated Keino.

This approach from AK in attempting to set up a lab where better testing can take place is a step in the direction that Keino is calling for, and will certainly be the kind of effort that WADA is hoping to see from the Kenyan authorities.