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Africa

Kenya's Olympic team gets nod for Rio Olympics

The IAAF has cleared Kenyan athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics despite concerns over the country's doping program. Some of the runners blame the sports authorities for laxity.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suspended Kenya's drug-testing agency after determining that a new law passed in the country to combat doping was "a complete mess."

Kenya passed a law last month that would criminalize doping.

Kenya had been handed a one-month extension to comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency code and thus avoid any sanctions. But WADA said on Thursday that the country needed to make changes to ensure compliance with the code, which sets a framework for consistent rules and policies around the world.

Shocking news

"This is news that has been received with a lot of concern and great surprise here in Kenya, considering that no one expected WADA to come up with such a decision," Saddique Shabaan, a sports journalist based in Nairobi, told DW. He said it appeared as if Kenya had been following the requirements set by WADA.

Wilson Kipsoro, a Kenyan athlete from Eldoret, puts the blame on Athletics Kenya, the track and field governing body in the country. He was banned for two years. Kipsoro told DW that he had not read any rules from the IAAF on the supplements to be used and those not to be used when he was told to take some multivitamins.

Symbolbild Doping Labor

40 Kenyan athletes have failed doping tests recently

Willis Mwangi, a resident of Nairobi, told DW that he was especially proud of his country when it came to athletics. He said he was disappointed to hear that his country may not participate in the Olympics. "Kenya's athletics association is failing in its role in controlling the anti-doping rules; so it should come back and adopt new strategies," Mwangi said.

Among the Kenyan runners whose participation in Rio was in jeopardy was the current Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 800-meters, David Rudisha. The men's and women's winners of last month's London Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong, would also have missed out.

Kenyan authorities met on Friday in an emergency meeting to tackle the doping problem that was casting doubt on the Kenyan athletics team's participation in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Sports journalist Shabaan said it was possible that the parliamentarians did not adhere to WADA's requirements. "They either watered down or added on to the recommendations WADA had given them. This could be why Kenya was declared non-compliant," he added.

Some Kenyans, like accountant Akmonyo Kayumbi in Nairobi, were not surprised by WADA's decision. "It did not come as a shock," he said. "Some of the Kenyan runners have learnt that becoming an athlete is a way of making money - so they have to advance using wrong means."

Griechenland Olympisches Feuer Flaggen

The Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Creating awareness to fight doping

Many Kenyans are urging the government to create awareness programs to avoid the upcoming athletes finding themselves in the same situation.

Maureen Chelagat, 400m national silver medalist, wants the government to hold seminars in every county to educate all the upcoming athletes. "Someone might convince you to use performance-enhancing drugs, and because you don't have sufficient knowledge about this, you fall into the same trap," she said.

Chelagat from Eldoret added that WADA's decision could not demoralize them, and that they would continue to perform well.

Wilson Kipsang, also an athlete from Eldoret, told DW that many of the athletes were not fully aware of what these drugs were and how they could avoid them. “Athletics Kenya is not doing much when it comes to creating awareness and making sure that control measures are really being done." Kipsang said

According to Shabaan, Kenyans are asking whether WADA is also supposed to have responsibilities like guidance, rather than than just punishing. "There are many countries including the host Brazil that are not compliant to the WADA rules and regulations. Mexico, Spain and many others are also not compliant but are yet to be punished."

Weltverband IAAF Leichtathletik Doping Skandal Russland

The IAAF gave Kenya until the end of the year to sort out its doping program

Hope for Olympic athletes

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said that Kenya's track and field athletes would not be banned from the Olympics despite the serious concerns over the country's doping program. The IAAF also said that Kenya remains on a "monitoring list" of countries with doping problems, and gave the country until the end of the year to sort out its doping program.

The International Olympic Committee, which has the final call on whether Kenya's famed distance runners will run in Rio in August, is also unlikely to stop the country from sending a team.

Since the London Games, 40 Kenyans have been banned. All but five of them were caught outside their home country.


Andrew Wasike in Nairobi contributed to this article.

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