Track and Field

Kenya misses 2nd deadline, could miss summer Olympics

The Kenyan government missed another deadline set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Tuesday in an effort to fight cheating in sports. In February, the government failed to meet a deadline to establish a law, which would have implemented a national anti-doping agency.

Lanni Marchant: 'If you cheat, you're out'

According to an Associated Press report, Athletics Kenya acting president, Jackson Tuwei, said that WADA was "satisfied" with the country's progress despite missing another deadline on Tuesday. (Associated Press/Ben Curtis) (Ben Curtis/The Associated Press)

Kenyans are known for being the best marathon runners on the planet.

With just four months until the Olympics, it's possible that none of them will compete in Rio.

The Kenyan government missed another deadline set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Tuesday in an effort to fight cheating in sports. In February, the government failed to meet a deadline to establish a law, which would have implemented a national anti-doping agency.

Kenya's acting president of Athletics, Jackson Tuwei, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he believes WADA is "satisfied" with the East African nation's progress of actively tackling doping among its athletes. 

But it's unclear what progress has been made since the government took a one-month recess on March 31 without having passed any legislation regarding the matter.

Since the 2012 Olympics, 40 Kenyan athletes have failed drug tests and at least three senior officials have been suspended and placed under investigation. Kenya could be considered to be non-compliant at an upcoming WADA meeting on May 12 in Montreal.

If this is the case, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) could suspend all Kenyan athletes from international competition in a ban similar to what was issued to Russia in 2015 for systematic doping.

Lanni Marchant, one of Canada's top marathon runners, is stunned with the Kenyan government's lack of accountability. 

"It's frustrating that the Kenyan government isn't taking it seriously," Marchant told CBC Sports. "It seems like they are taking it as a joke or a slap on the wrist. That's frustrating. Take it seriously. Your whole country may be banned from the Olympics."

Marchant currently works as a lawyer in Tennessee while she is training for the Rio Olympics. She considers Kenya her home during the winter – a place where she has trained since 2012. However, with regards to a country-wide ban, Marchant was hesitant.

"I have mixed feelings. I don't want my first Olympics being considered as an 'asterisk' because the Russians aren't there or that the Kenyans aren't there. But, I also want a clean Olympics," said Marchant, who is from London, Ont. "I want to line up against the best of the best. Not every Kenyan is cheating; not every Russian is cheating. I want to have a full Olympics and to be racing against a full field."

However, when it comes to doping – Marchant believes in a strict "one-strike" policy.

"If you cheat, you are out. There is no coming back from that. If you false start [in a race], you are disqualified. Why not doping and actively cheating? I think that banning a country as a whole is what it takes to catch the few."

'Why are you even doing this sport?' 

Reid Coolsaet, Canada's top male marathon runner, has also trained numerous times in his career at the training centre in Iten, Kenya. When it comes to drug testing in Canada, Coolsaet is used to an official showing up unannounced. But it was different in Kenya.

"When I got drug tested in Kenya, they told me the night before," he said. 

"That's unusual. I've never had any sort of warning … I think that a tip off [would give a runner an advantage]. I think that even if you had a few hours notice, you could at least hydrate a lot or do other things which would decrease the chances of finding something."

The Hamilton, Ont., native also believes that the problem in Kenya stems from not having an accredited laboratory.

"Urine and blood samples have to be tested within 36 hours. [If they had an accredited facility], things would be a lot different. That requires money. But the amount of money that Kenyan runners bring back is a lot."

Coolsaet has trained with with many Kenyan runners, including Joseph Mutinda, who was banned for three years in 2015 after admitting to doping.

"That gets me really angry – especially if it's people that I compete against. My first reaction when I see athletes doping is … why are you even doing this sport? To me, it's stealing. I would be really curious to know the details of what he was taking, who was giving it to him and why," Coolsaet said.

Both Canadians agree there will be a great deal of skepticism regarding Kenyans at the Boston Marathon taking place on April 18. Although Marchant won't be participating this year, she finished as the top Canadian woman in 2014. She recalls being tested before the race but not being selected in the random tests at the finish line.

"There will be a lot more out-of-competition testing at the Boston Marathon. I wouldn't be surprised if you see the majority of [Kenyans] being tested after the race." 

Meanwhile, 2011 Boston Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai announced Tuesday he's pulling out of this year's race. The Kenyan stated that he decided not to participate because he had not reached his training goals. 

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