By Clay Muganda
There is a problem on Kenya’s running track and we will have to deal with it. Live with it is more like it. Early this week, it was reported that Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, the former Olympics and triple world 1,500m champion had failed a doping test. What followed was expected of ordinary Kenyans even as the local athletics bodies called for caution, but were also guarded in their reactions.
This is not the first time Kenyans are being accused of doping or of doing something contrary to sporting rules, and several athletes in the wider sense of the word, have had to live with the consequences.
Many years ago, Kenya’s cricketing family was thrown into a spin when Maurice Odumbe, one of the country’s most prolific and flamboyant cricketers, was accused of having improper contact with a bookmaker.
After a flurry of hearings, he was banned for five years, after which he was supposed to get back to the game, but he never quite recovered due to several reasons.
Maurice, an award-winning cricketer by all standards, had his days in court, so to write, and maintained he was innocent even as his accusers stacked evidence against him and people he had trusted peeled away from his circle.
At the end of it all, he was a lonely figure which even the local cricketing body could not touch with a cricket bat.
Public opinion was divided and while Maurice was dealing with his issues alone, people who believed that he was innocent continued spinning all sorts of theories, and pointed fingers at the cricketing mafia, both locally and internationally.
This finger pointing at some sort of mafia targeting Kenya’s sports personalities was at play this week too after it was “leaked” that Asbel had failed a doping test.
Asbel, who ironically got the 2008 Olympics gold medal after Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain had tested positive for EPO, has so far said he “can never dare ruin his career through doping” and has sworn to prove that he is clean.
His multitude of Kenyan fans who understand little about the processes of testing or who do not know what EPO is and cannot even pronounce Erythropoietin, believe that he is innocent.
As a matter of fact, they are not even saying that he is innocent until proven guilty, but they are hanging onto his every word, and any statement to the contrary from World Anti-doping Agency, Athletics Integrity Unit or any other world body is only making their resolve about his innocence stronger.
While local authorities were guarded in their reactions, Asbel issued a longish statement, and is leading his fans in pointing fingers.
It is their word against his urine sample, which he says he willingly gave, and topped it up with money which he says the two doping officials asked for.
Asbel’s fans and several Kenyans must be wondering why local authorities are not doing their patriotic duty and defending the world-beating athlete who has brought glory to Kenya.
By the way, just as I asked during Maurice Odumbe’s case many years ago, I am also asking why the local athletics bodies are not coming to Asbel’s defence.
But do our noises matter? We can make as much noise as we want and point fingers at many bodies as possible, but at the end of the day, we will not serve a ban or stand with Asbel in the dock when he eventually has his day in court, so to speak. He will be alone.
While we cannot condemn Asbel, we are not in any way helping his case or his cause by continuing to point fingers at world bodies for biased against Kenyan athletes since they are not the only ones whose samples get tested or are found guilty of doping.
We have to admit that there is a problem and it has to be solved otherwise Asbel’s case will not be the last one.
First Published by the Standard