There is “no suggestion” that there has been any state-sponsored drug cheating in Kenyan athletics despite a series of high-profile doping scandals, says World Athletics president Lord Coe.
Russia has received several bans after a 2016 report found evidence of a state-sponsored doping programme across many sports – but when it comes to athletics, 40% of those currently serving bans are Kenyan.
“We took a different approach to Kenya from the approach we took with Russia because they were two different cases,” Coe told a joint media conference in Nairobi where he praised the work being done by the Kenyan government.
“The case against Russia was about cover ups that were planned at the state authority level, but there is no suggestion that this is the case in Kenya. In fact, quite the reverse.
“The fact that all these agencies are in alignment and prepared to work alongside World Athletics and the Athletic Integrity Unit is a very, very important statement.”
Kenya’s sports minister, Abadu Namwamba, has pledged to spend $25m over the next five years to clean up the sport and also hopes to turn doping into a criminal offence.
“Rather than hide from these grim statistics, rather than bury our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, we have accepted the challenge,” he said.
“We have agreed that we have a problem and we have moved on to prepare on how to confront that problem head on.”
Coe chose Kenya as the destination for his first international tour of 2023, meeting not only Namwamba but also the country’s new president, William Ruto, national governing body Athletics Kenya, anti-doping authorities and a number of athletes.
“The journey will be a long journey,” he warned.
“We should not kid ourselves that this is going to be achieved overnight. But the goal is worth it.”
Coe added that he was “pleased” with the commitment that Kenya’s authorities had shown, and especially Ruto.
But he stressed that while “plans are all fine and dandy,” the task now was to implement and monitor those plans “to make sure that we are making the right kind of progress”.
Starting this year, Kenya is expected to increase the number of annual drug tests to 3,000 as well as expand its educational programme.
“Sports is what brands Kenya more than anything else,” Namwamba added.
“Athletics gives Kenya the global image we enjoy – and we cannot put that reputation at risk.”
Seventeen Kenyan athletes failing doping tests in 2022, while a total of 55 are currently serving bans.
Kenya to bid for 2029 World Championships
After losing its bid to host the 2025 World Athletics Championships, Namwamba also chose Thursday’s press conference to announce that Kenya will bid for the 2029 event, seeking to become the first African country to organise the global showpiece.
“We will be in a very strong position to put in a very, very compelling bid because we cannot be such major athletics powerhouse and we don’t bring world athletics to Nairobi,” stated Namwamba, before adding that his nation will “be counting on the goodwill” of Coe.
Kenya also recently announced a plan to submit a joint bid for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament.