Athletics superpower Kenya announced Thursday it will more than triple annual drug testing of athletes amid a surge in doping cases.
Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba said Kenya was targeting 3,445 tests a year — compared to the current 1,000 — for its 37,900 athletes and support personnel.
“The ministry has put a premium on integrity in sports, and the ministry has declared total war on all forms of cheating in sports,” Namwamba told reporters.
“And that is why, for us, zero tolerance to doping is a war we cannot afford to lose.”
The plans were unveiled in a report issued by an anti-doping steering committee set up in December after the government announced it was committing $5 million a year over five years to try to combat drug abuse in the sport.
A total of 67 Kenyan athletes — mainly distance runners — have been banned in the last five years for drugs offences in a crisis that has tarnished the East African track and field powerhouse.
The committee also announced proposals to beef up its investigation mechanisms and monitoring of athletes, with, for example, biological passports, as well as developing educational programmes.
– ‘Medical-savvy operation’ –
The body is made up of representatives from Athletics Kenya, the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK), the international Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) and the Kenyan sports ministry.
“The clear, immediate strategic priority has been to quickly increase the capacity of ADAK to test far more athletes out of competition,” the anti-doping steering committee said in a statement.
“This is a crucial structural flaw in the current environment that must be corrected.”
In March, AIU head Brett Clothier warned during a visit to Kenya that the international anti-doping body was stepping up its investigations and testing in the country.
The AIU also said earlier this month that Kenyan athletes were being assisted in covering up doping offences by a “medically-savvy operation”.
Its claims followed an investigation into falsified medical documents from marathon runner Betty Wilson Lempus and 800m specialist Eglay Nalyanya.
Lempus was given a five-year doping ban in January. Nalyanya was suspended this month for eight years for using a prohibited substance.
© Agence France-Presse