28th April 2017

Athletics Kenya restricts which doctors its athletes can use

Athletics Kenya has set up Kenya Doctors Network, a list of approved doctors that athletes are required to use in cases where medical conditions require treatment. ‘This procedure is in force and would like to remind all the athletes not to visit any other Doctor apart from those listed in the programme’, read an Athletics Kenya statement issued today. It is unclear what sanctions will face athletes that are found not to have adhered to the permitted list.

In July last year, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced investigations after an ARD/Sunday Times investigation alleged that doctors in Eldoret had been supplying prohibited substances to athletes. The investigation included footage (video below) of a clinical officer claiming to have supplied 50 athletes from all over Europe. The undercover footage also showed the medical file of a top UK athlete whom he claimed to have supplied with erythropoietin (EPO).

The Eldoret/Kapsabet region, at 2,100 metres above sea level, is the gateway city to high-altitude training in surrounding Kenyan villages. Over a sustained period, altitude training is thought to benefit athletes as lower oxygen levels mean that the body increases red blood cell and haemoglobin production. This aids the blood in carrying oxygen to the muscles, a benefit that remains for 10-14 days when the athlete returns to lower altitude.

A number of endurance athletes have trained in this area – including Britain’s Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe ahead of the London 2012 Olympics. As Eldoret is a mountainous region over 160 miles from the capital, Nairobi, regulation of pharmacists and doctors treating athletes there is understood to be problematic. It is UKAD and WADA policy to not announce the results of an investigation unless anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) have been uncovered.

‘We wish to remind our athletes that they will be held responsible for any doping offences and, in consultation with relevant authorities, we will not hesitate to evoke the laws of the land to deal with these offences’, continued the Athletics Kenya statement, which referred to Jemima Sumgong’s Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF), confirmed by the IAAF earlier this month. Rio 2016 Marathon champion Sumgong is from the Nandi district of Kenya, which has produced a number of renowned distance runners. The Eldoret/Kapsabet region is in the Nandi district.

‘Doping is a criminal offence in Kenya now and those involved in this heinous act, which is threatening the lives of our athletes, will face the full force of law’, continued the statement. ‘We also wish to send a very strong message to athletes representatives, doctors, coaches and all athletes support personnel that those found culpable or proved to be encouraging our athletes in this line of sporting subterfuge will be charged as prescribed by the law of the land.’

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