International Association of Athletics Federations’ Athletes Integrity Unit (AIU) has extended the ban on Kenya’s 2016 Rio Olympics marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong to eight years.
Sumgong, who was in 2017 handed a four-year ban for using a banned performance-enhancing substance, had her ban doubled after she presented “fake evidence” in her appeal.
The IAAF’s decision, though harsh, is commendable. It should act as a wake-up call and deterrent to athletes who seek a shortcut to glory at the expense of their genuinely hardworking colleagues.
Last year, several Kenyan athletes were banned for doping — including World 800 metres bronze medallist Kiyegon Bett (four years) and Milano Marathon champion Lucy Kabuu (two years). Several others await their fate, having appealed against their bans — the likes of three-time World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop and sprinter Boniface Mweresa.
When, in 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Anti-Doping Bill into law, that alone saved Kenya from being banned from Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Championships in Athletics. This law should now be activated with athletes who have been found culpable facing the consequences.
Sadly, the fact that some cases involve young athletes is disturbing. That is why the government, Adak, AK and other authorities must change tack and rein in on unscrupulous managers and coaches luring the youth to doping.
The IAAF, Athletics Kenya and Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) have so far done a commendable job in educating athletes on doping. But it seems it will require more than just education since some cases are deliberate and culprits should be punished.