A Kenyan sprinting coach was sent home from the Rio Olympics after posing as an athlete and giving a urine sample to drug testers, deepening concerns about Kenya’s efforts to tackle the issue of doping, which has tarnished its reputation.
The East African nation boasts some of the world’s best middle and long-distance runners, but more than 40 of its competitors have failed drug tests since 2012 and its athletics federation has been mired in corruption scandals linked to doping.
The concerns over Kenya’s doping problem were so large that at one point the country’s participation at the Rio Olympics was under threat.
Kip Keino, a Kenyan running great and chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK), said sprint coach John Anzrah was sent home after a drug test at an Olympic venue.
“He presented himself as an athlete, gave the urine sample and even signed the documents. We cannot tolerate such behaviour,” Keino said in a telephone interview from Rio after a Kenyan media outlet reported Anzrah had been sent home.
“We don’t even know how he came here because we (NOCK) did not facilitate his travel here.”
Coach went along with drug test to obtain free meals
It was not clear which athlete Anzrah was pretending to be.
But one senior source at Kenya’s running federation, Athletics Kenya (AK), said he had spoken to the concerned athlete, who claims Anzrah used his accreditation purely to obtain free meals from the athletes’ village.
“When the anti-doping officials met him, they assumed he was the athlete and that he was lined up for testing,” said the AK source.
“The coach, for fear of being exposed or discovered, did not explain to the anti-doping guy that he is actually not the athlete.
“Hence he played along and went for the test.”
Anzrah was not immediately available for comment.
The latest doping allegations, coming on the eve of the first track and field competition at the Rio Games, arrive at an awkward time for organisers and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which this month removed Kenya from its list of nations deemed ‘non-compliant’ with its doping code.
WADA changed its stance on Kenya after the country’s parliament introduced new legislation to punish drug cheats.
Keino, who has won two gold medals for Kenya, had been the first senior Kenyan official to sound alarm bells about the scale of doping in Kenya.
In the past he has often complained about his concerns being ignored by government officials.
At the opening ceremony of Rio Games, Keino was honoured by organisers, receiving the first-ever Olympics Laurel for his work in promoting sport and education for the poor in Kenya.