2020 review: No respite as doping cases plague Kenyan athletes
Gilbert KiprotichChief athletics writer
Year 2020 will go down as one to forget for Kenyan athletes owing to the high profile sanctions imposed on them due to anti-doping violations.
Former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, the 2017 London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru and Commonwealth Games 1500m champion Elijah Manangoi topped Kenya’s list of athletes banned in 2020 for anti-doping violations.
Kipsang was handed a four year ban in June while Manangoi was slapped with a two year ban in November, both for whereabouts failures.
It is worth noting that the duo did not test positive for any banned substances.
So, what’s whereabouts failure?
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Whereabouts are information provided by a limited number of top elite athletes about their location to the International Sport Federation or National Anti-Doping Organization that included them in their respective registered testing pool as part of these top elite athletes’ anti-doping responsibilities.
Therefore, a whereabouts failure occurs when an athlete fails to submit, update or files inaccurate, incorrect or inaccurate information.
Similarly, when an athlete misses a test within the one-hour (60 minutes) window he/she qualifies for whereabouts failure.
However, an athlete will be sanctioned when three whereabouts failures are registered on him/her within a period of 12 months.
For Kipsang, he was banned for whereabouts failures and tampering by providing false evidence and witness testimony.
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) found that Kipsang had committed a total of four missed tests and/or filing failures including a missed test on 27 April 2018, a filing failure related to the Athlete’s whereabouts information provided for 18 January 2019.
He also missed a test on 12 April 2019 followed by another missed test a month later.
Manangoi, also a former world 1,500m champion, was banned in November for two years which is set to expire in December 2021.
According to AIU, the athlete missed three tests between the period of July and December 2019.
The two cases of whereabouts failures involving high profile athletes in the former world champions leaves more questions than answers.
Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) CEO Japhter Rugut blasted the athletes caught on whereabouts violation for negligence.
“All athletes under the Registered Testing Pools know what is required of them, especially the high profile athletes. They should not blame anyone but only themselves. It is very clear when you miss a test you are given an opportunity to update your whereabouts at your convenience for the one-hour window period,” said Rugut.
The list of Kenya’s athletes charged with whereabouts failures also contain former 800m world under-20 champion Alfred Kipketer who was suspended from competing in January pending the conclusion of his case.
Moreover, Alex Korio Oloitiptip was also handed a two-year ban in July for whereabouts violations while Patrick Siele was banned for three and half years for evading a doping test.
The burgeoning list of Kenyan athletes caught violating whereabouts rule has left national athletics coach Julius Kirwa a worried man.
“Athletics Kenya has invested a lot in educating our athletes and it has now reached a point to blame athletes individually,” he said. It does not take much to update your whereabouts whenever you change your position within the 60 minutes window. I am however concerned that it is as if our athletes do not take this with the seriousness it deserves.”
For Wanjiru, however, he was slapped with a four year ban in October after testing positive to a banned substance.
With Kenya still in the World Athletics watch list, AK president Jackson Tuwei is sending a strong warning to drug cheats.
“We have some few athletes who have opted for shortcuts. I want to assure them that they cannot go far with their dirty tricks because in this era of technology you cannot hide,” said Tuwei.