By Edwin Waita
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Athletics Kenya (AK) has held talks with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) about setting up a drug-testing lab in Nairobi, chief executive Isaac Mwangi said.
Kenya, boasting some of the world’s finest middle and long-distance runners, has been under increasing pressure to improve its testing programme after a spate of failed drug tests by the East African nation’s athletes.
This month Kenya’s Olympic committee chairman, Kipchoge Keino, warned that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was seriously considering suspending the country unless it tackled doping more seriously. AK officials say they have not yet received any official correspondence about such a threat.
Mwangi said Athletics Kenya (AK) and the IAAF have held talks on setting up a lab but that it was proving tricky to find a facility sophisticated enough to pass WADA’s stringent testing conditions.
“They have been assessing some of the laboratories around here, especially within the medical facilities,” Mwangi told Reuters in Nairobi.
Mwangi said Kenya’s testing capabilities were limited by the absence of a lab to hold samples and by a shortage of funds. In Kenya all urine samples have to be sent abroad for testing.
“We also don’t have the capacity to do systematic (testing), that requires a lot of money and resources and we don’t have that at the moment,” said Mwangi.
He added Kenya was doing as much in-competition testing as it can, as well as some out-of-competition tests.
“We feel that education is the key. Education is what will ensure change and to ensure that a young athlete growing up is not going to be influenced to use performance-enhancing substances,” he said.
At least 33 Kenyan athletes are estimated to have tested positive for banned substances since 2012, including Rita Jeptoo, winner of the Boston and Chicago marathons.
(Reporting by Edwin Waita; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Andrew Roche)