For some Kenyan runners, a doping ban is not a total ban.
Benjamin Kiprop Serem bagged 50,000 rupees (US$755) for winning the Calicut Mini Marathon in India on March 1 midway through his two-year ban for using the steroid nandrolone at the Beirut Marathon in 2013.
Bernard Mwendia Muthoni placed sixth in Malaysia’s Melaka River International Marathon in December last year, even though his two-year ban for a nandrolone by-product runs to Nov. 15.
That banned runners can compete speaks to loose policing of Kenya’s offshore running industry. Athletics Kenya said it has 4,000 athletes registered in its database and concedes that it struggles to keep close track of runners who compete, and often train and live, overseas.
Before he was suspended in February following allegations that he solicited bribes from two athletes, Athletics Kenya CEO Isaac Mwangi said in an Associated Press interview that tracking down Kenyan runners who have tested positive abroad sometimes proves impossible.
Many of the Kenyans caught doping were not registered with the federation, Mwangi said.
Often, Athletics Kenya only became aware of them when word of their failed tests reached federation headquarters in Nairobi, he said.
“Many of these athletes ... are caught in Mexico, some are in China, especially in Macau. Those are areas that are difficult to control,” Mwangi said. “When these athletes go there and get tested and they turn positive, that’s when we get to know who they are, because we have a lot of athletes running all over the world.”
“Some of them left the country like 10 or so years ago, but they are still competing in different cities in Mexico, Beirut and other cities,” he said. “The race directors, the managers, they need to be a bit more vigilant.”
Race directors failing to perform due diligence are accepting racers even after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body, has announced doping bans on its Web site. By the latest AP count, based entirely on cases confirmed by the IAAF, 40 Kenyan runners have been banned for doping violations since the 2012 London Olympics.
The IAAF published Serem’s ban in its doping sanctions newsletter on March 28, 2014, nearly a full year before he raced in India.
The date of birth for Serem provided by the Calicut organizers — April 27, 1987 — matched that published by the IAAF. Still, race organizers told AP they did not know he was banned.
Muthoni’s ban for a positive test in 2013 at a 10km race in Jakarta was announced in last year’s Dec. 8 edition of the IAAF newsletter.
He raced the Melaka marathon 12 days later, registering his date of birth as May 29, 1987, Melaka race director Azmar Hamid said.
That matches the birthdate published by the IAAF for the Muthoni who is banned.
Hamid told reporters that he did not check whether competitors were serving doping suspensions.
The marathon did not conduct drug testing, he said.
It offered a top prize of 7,500 ringgit (US$1,927).
Under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, banned athletes who continue to compete at sanctioned or government-funded events can have their suspensions extended.
Calicut organizers said that even though Indian athletics officials officiated at their 10K, they do not believe their race falls under WADA’s rules.
“However, had we known Mr Kiprop [Serem] had been banned, on doping grounds, we would’ve not allowed him to take part,” they told reporters.
The Melaka race is organized by the local state government and city council, with help from the Malaysia Athletics Federation and the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board among its sponsors, another of the race’s organizers, Mohamad Fairuz Abdul Karim, said.
At other races, doping sanctions were announced too late for organizers to act.
Lilian Mariita competed for months in US road races while provisionally suspended for doping. Athletics Kenya told her in an email to her agent on April 8 last year that she tested positive for the banned endurance-boosting hormone erythropoietin and should no longer compete.
However, her definitive ban — since extended to eight years for a second failed drug test — was not published in the IAAF newsletter or on its regularly updated list of suspended athletes until December.
Three days after the Athletics Kenya suspension, Mariita lined up at a half-marathon in St Louis, Missouri, and won US$1,500 for first place.
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