JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Kenyan authorities are so worried about an increased number of doping cases among their world-famous distance athletes that the government will invest "a lot of money" into an ongoing investigation, a senior track official said on Monday.
David Okeyo, secretary general of Athletics Kenya, told The Associated Press "we are all concerned" after the world athletics body listed 13 Kenyans guilty of doping offenses between January 2012 and January 2013. That is a rate of more than one a month, which is excessive for Kenya, Okeyo said.
"I agree with you. The number is going higher. That's why we are all concerned." Okeyo said in a telephone interview.
The government set up a secretive commission in January to investigate, he said, after a number of positive tests in the past year plus the broadcast of a German documentary before last year's London Olympics that alleged widespread doping in Kenya's remote high-altitude training camps.
While Okeyo said he did not believe the allegations of systematic doping made by the documentary, he conceded Kenyan authorities were worried by the rising number of proven cases, as shown by the IAAF's list of current athletes sanctioned for doping offenses that was released this month.
"That is why our government has set up this commission," Okeyo said. "They've put a lot of money into it and we will support it."
Okeyo said he did not know who the members of the investigating commission were as it was "very private."
"Nobody knows who they are," he said.
The government-led investigation may signal a change in the attitude of Kenyan authorities, with the track body dismissing allegations of widespread doping and a systematic problem when the documentary by German broadcaster ARD initially emerged.
Even now, Okeyo still called the 13 doping cases "isolated" and said illicit drugs are a worldwide problem, not a Kenyan one. But he later conceded in the interview that the cases during the past year were worrying for a country that prides itself on its distance running heritage.
None of the runners sanctioned over the 12 months are at the very top of Kenya's distance-running crop. But Matthews Kisorio, who failed a test last June and was banned for two years, won a team gold with Kenya at the 2011 Cross-Country Championships. He also once ran the third fastest half-marathon in history.
Also, seven of the 13 athletes — including Kisorio — were banned after testing positive for Norandrosterone, which is prohibited by world anti-doping rules and linked to the anabolic steroid Nandrolone. That apparently undermined Athletics Kenya's stance that many athletes failed doping tests because of badly prescribed medicines.
Okeyo said the findings of the government investigation would be made public, although he didn't know when. He also said he hoped the commission would discover if people had been posing as doctors in high-altitude training camps and providing banned substances to athletes, allegedly one of the main reasons for the recent doping cases involving Kenyans.
"I hope this committee will catch up with them (the fake doctors)," Okeyo said. "I believe the committee that has been appointed has the capacity to find them."
Kenya won 11 medals at last year's Olympics, comparable with the 14 it won in Beijing 2008. All of them were in athletics. However, the east African country collected two golds in 2012, as opposed to the six it won in 2008.
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