The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Department delivered the report from its Kenya Project taskforce in Nairobi today in collaboration with the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) and the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).
The two-day meeting is the latest initiative being implemented by WADA’s I&I Department following the launch in December 2016 of a full-scale investigation, known as the Kenya Project, into widespread doping in the East African nation, as revealed by whistleblowers and media reports. WADA and the AIU set up the project, which was focused primarily on distance running, with the view to developing a multi-stakeholder network equipped to tackle the problem. This week’s meeting was an opportunity to bring together all stakeholders for the first time for discussions while also affording WADA investigators the opportunity to update them on progress made to date.
The project’s objectives were twofold: firstly, to understand the doping practices of Kenyan athletes with the view to identifying those involved, at all levels; and secondly, to develop a multi-stakeholder network to better tackle Kenyan doping. The main targets of the investigation were:
- Elite and sub-elite distance runners residing or training in Kenya and competing internationally.
- Associated coaches, support staff, chaperones, doctors and ancillary medical staff.
- Kenyan sporting officials (where there was a credible link to corruption or other serious crime).
The summary project report, which has now been published on the WADA website, made a number of key conclusions:
- The doping practices of Kenyan athletes are unsophisticated, opportunistic, and uncoordinated and there is no evidence of an institutionalized system.
- Based on the substances detected, Kenyan athletes most commonly use nandrolone and EPO.
- Athletes in Kenya are insufficiently educated on doping and/or willfully blind as to the consequences of doping.
- The role of local medical practitioners and quasi-medical personnel (e.g. chemists) is highly relevant to the accessibility of prohibited substances to athletes and their entourages.
- Some local medical practitioners and quasi-medical personnel are unaware and/or willfully blind to their role in facilitating the access of athletes and their entourage to prohibited substances.
- The benefits of the “substantial assistance” provisions of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) are vastly underutilized by Kenyan athletes who are caught for doping.
In attendance at the meeting this week were representatives from Athletics Kenya, the Kenyan Ministry of Sports, the Kenyan Pharmacy and Poisons Board, the Kenyan Sports Disputes Tribunal, local law enforcement, INTERPOL, the Africa Zone V Regional Anti-Doping Organization and a number of interested National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs). The NADOs present included those from Norway and the United Kingdom, which have been helping ADAK build its infrastructure and have previous experience dealing with cases involving Kenyan athletes. Importantly, this was the first time these groups had met in one place to discuss doping in Kenya.
WADA Director of Intelligence and Investigations Gunter Younger said: “We take the doping practices in Kenya very seriously and have been working hard to identify their extent and nature in Kenyan athletics as well as trying to work out the best possible response.
“A meeting such as this, which includes all parties involved in that response, is a very important next step. We believe that a strong, unified, multi-stakeholder approach is key to advancing clean sport in Kenya. Doping in the country is different from other doping structures discovered elsewhere in the world and, as such, it requires a different approach. What we have determined is that doping in Kenya is not sophisticated or organized and does not appear to be institutionalized.
“What is needed is a multi-pronged solution. That is why in response to the issues discovered, we have established a network led by AIU and ADAK that will collaborate, educate, investigate and prosecute cases. The project itself is now concluded but really the work is just beginning. If our recommendations are implemented, Kenya Project will have led to better education of athletes and medical practitioners, a greater investigative capacity for ADAK, an active whistleblower network and, ultimately, a stronger anti-doping program in Kenya.
“ADAK cannot do this on its own. It will take the full cooperation and involvement of a range of other groups, including law enforcement, athletes and their representatives, government bodies and Athletics Kenya. I would like to thank our colleagues from the AIU and ADAK who will be leading this response on the ground and, with our assistance and continued support, will bring the fight to the dopers.”
Head of the AIU Brett Clothier said: "We thank WADA’s I&I team for launching this project and bringing it forward to this important milestone. Kenya is a great and justly proud athletics nation, but it now has a serious doping problem. The reasons for this are complex and there are no easy solutions but the AIU is dedicated to working with our partners in Kenya and improving the situation.
“Currently, Kenyan athletes make up 22% of the AIU out-of-competition testing program and at least the equivalent amount of time in our investigations and intelligence team. The AIU funded the establishment of a new blood laboratory in Nairobi. We are putting a lot of time and resources into anti-doping in Kenya.
“We are not just interested in making cases but gaining a deep understanding so that we can find real and lasting solutions to meet Kenya’s unique challenges. We are pleased to say that in addition to our partnership with WADA, we now believe we have genuine partners in Kenya who are going to be part of these solutions. Athletics Kenya and ADAK are working closely with us and making significant contributions to the fight against doping in athletics.”
CEO of ADAK Japhter Rugut said: “Kenya is privileged to be the world’s first country to host this kind of forum and this strengthens our position as a sporting powerhouse. In addition, we believe in concerted effort in the fight against doping and it is for this reason that we welcome our partners to share with us how well we can cooperate in the sensitive area of intelligence and investigations to ensure that we promote clean sport.
"This meeting has definitely motivated us as we continue to fulfill our strategic mandate. We are particularly grateful to WADA for the pivotal assistance in the fight against doping considering that we are a young NADO. We view this opportunity as a good launching pad for us to continue revamping our anti-doping strategies especially now that we have a WADA-approved laboratory in the country.”
Among those present to ensure the athletes were represented and heard at the meeting was Chair of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya’s Athletes Commission and former international rugby player Humphrey Kayange.
Kayange, who is also a biochemist, said: “This is an important day for clean sport in Kenya and it is great to see the level of cooperation that already exists between the key stakeholders. In the first instance, we need to ramp up the education of athletes and their entourages so that ignorance and willful neglect of responsibilities are reduced.
“It is great that athletes’ voices are being heard in this process and we advocate the setting up of improved testing and investigating procedures in Kenya so that those who choose to cheat are caught and brought to justice. Clean athletes deserve to know they are competing on a level playing field.”
During the meeting, the Kenya Project taskforce presented its findings and insights gained to date. There was an update from AIU regarding its ongoing work in Kenya; the work of external Anti-Doping Organizations in Kenya was explained; there was an update on ADAK investigations; and an update from INTERPOL on its Project Energia, which is an initiative supported by WADA to help member countries understand and combat the trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs through targeted criminal analysis.
In order to strengthen cooperation and plan for future collaboration in this area, I&I has also set up operational meetings on Friday between interested participants where ongoing cases can be discussed and strategies developed.