Amidst the positive drug tests from Kenyan athletes that have surfaced this year, the country has announced their first WADA-approved drug testing laboratory.
This year alone, big Kenyan names like Kipyegon Bett, Asbel Kiprop, and Ruth Jebet have all failed drug tests. Jebet is a Kenyan-born runner, who still trains in Kenya, but races for Bahrain. Each of these athletes is an Olympic or Worlds medallist.
Today, @iaaforg @AIU_Athletics has announced that they will set up a @wada_ama accredited laboratory in Kenya and Nairobi in particular. This is to say the least the best news we have had this year and We at AK are very excited about it. @ADAK_KE @moscakenya pic.twitter.com/ys6QTnOKko
— Athletics Kenya (AK) (@athletics_kenya) August 27, 2018
According to The News Tribune, anti-doping officials are hoping that this new lab will close a loophole that has potentially allowed East African distance-runners to beat controls over the years. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is funding the lab with help from the IAAF.
Historically, blood samples taken from Kenyan runners had to be sent South Africa or Europe to be tested in a lab within 36 hours.
Many distance athletes train and live in very remote locations during big training blocks. Because of this, athletes were occasionally given advance notice of an out-of-competition test. This could allow a window for an athlete to cover their tracks before submitting a sample. Out-of-competition tests are intended to be done without prior warning.
According to the Washington Post, Kiprop, who failed an out-of-competition test in November 2017, was given advance notice of the test. “In November, Kenyan Olympic gold medalist Asbel Kiprop heard from a doping control officer who told him to expect a visit the next day. Advance notice for urine tests is prohibited under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, but Kiprop said he didn’t think anything of it because he had been warned about such tests before.”
The new lab hopes to eliminate the need to provide advance notice to athletes, as the sample will not need to travel as far for examination. Athletics Kenya tweeted yesterday, “This time round things will be faster, easier and cheaper and those who want to engage in doping will suffer the consequences. We are currently working very closely with the Athletics Integrity Unit and Anti-Doping Kenya. Those who want to cheat should start counting their days.”