Kenyan athletics has a doping problem in Rio, but it’s not with its athletes

Team Kenya at the opening ceremony.
Team Kenya at the opening ceremony.
Image: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
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Two of Kenya’s top athletics coaches have been caught up in separate doping scandals on the eve of the track and field events at the Rio Olympics.

Following an identity mix up, John Anzrah, a Kenyan athletics coach, has been sent home after he was found to have been “posing” as an athlete when he was picked for a random drug tests and provided urine samples. “He presented himself as an athlete, gave the urine sample and even signed the documents,” Kip Keino, chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, said.

Anzrah is the second Kenyan coach sent home this week due to a doping controversy. Michael Rotich, a track and field coach, was sent home earlier after being implicated in a doping bribery scandal. An undercover investigation by British newspaper Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD, claimed Rotich asked for a $10,000 bribe to give athletes advance warnings of drug tests. Upon arrival in Nairobi, a Kenyan court ruled that Rotich can be detained for up to a month while the police investigate the doping bribery claims.

While Kenya’s athletes have performed at the top level of sport for the last couple of decades its sports administrators’ bungling is threatening to undermine its talent. In the last few years several top and promising Kenyan athletes have quit their nation to run for countries like Qatar and Turkey because of the mismanagement and corruption.

The latest doping controversies are damaging to Kenya’s recent efforts to stay in the good books of anti-doping authorities. In April it introduced a new, stringent anti-doping law in line with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) directives. At the time, Kenya faced the risk of an Olympic ban due to its weak laws and poor doping records—over 40 Kenyan athletes have tested positive for banned substances since 2011. Cutting it very close, WADA finally took Kenya off its list of ‘non-compliant’ nations on the day of the opening ceremony of Rio 2016.