Seattle, WA. — With Athletics Kenya releasing news Thursday that three Kenyan marathoners face doping bans for failing drug tests, and former three-time steeplechase world champion Moses Kiptanui adding his voice to those expressing the opinion that there is more PED drug use going on in Kenya than previously believed, it was timely to find the World Marathon Majors release a new drug policy this week. The World Marathon Majors is made up of the New York City, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons.
While not aimed at any particular nation or region, the new policy is an acknowledgment that the same temptations are in play in Africa as anywhere else. And having been to both Kenya and Ethiopia several times, and as recently as last year, I can tell you that the argument against the likelihood of drug use in East Africa has always been more about cost, availability and regimentation than the desire to partake. Plus, the number of talented athletes is so huge, and some regions so remote as to negate the practicality of widespread drug use.
However, all one need do is recall that when I first visited Africa in 1998 there were no cell phones, internet cafes or wireless technology whatsoever. In other words, things have changed; modernity rolls in quite quickly. And with more and more opportunities to perform around the world, the temptation to lift oneself out of poverty, by whatever means necessary, grows right along with them. Therefore, the need to increase testing should mirror that same pattern of growth.
But testing is expensive, not just in the form of the tests themselves, but in the human cost of placing testers in areas where athletes live and train. That’s why I found it interesting to note that a major World Marathon Majors initiative should be released under a London Marathon letterhead rather than a World Marathon Majors’ one. It points to the continued muddled nature of this sport from an organizational standpoint. (more…)