Athletics in Turmoil


The next Olympic Games, in Rio, could be a very different one to that of London 2012 for all the wrong reasons. The faces we’ve come to know and love in running may not be joining us as two of the world’s heavyweights have come under increased scrutiny with regards to their weak anti-doping records. These are Jamaica, undoubtedly housing the world’s greatest sprinters in both men’s and women’s athletics, and Kenya, with a long-standing tradition of churning out the best long-distance runners in the world.

Both have frustrated WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, for failing to comply with strict anti-doping policies. The crisis in Jamaica was sparked by the positive tests of Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson. ‘Jadco’, Jamaica’s anti-doping agency has been harshly criticized in recent times, with former director Renee Anne Shirley claiming drug-testing in the run up to 2012 was virtually non-existent. If the external audit of Jadco by WADA proves unsuccessful, Jamaican athletes may be prohibited from entering the Olympics in 2016. The real question is, though: if the external audit is successful, will there be any Jamaican athletes left to enter?

The case of Kenya is equally important. Though not housing the major names of Bolt and Blake, Kenya’s athletics record is equally impressive. Three of the top five fastest marathons of all time are by Kenyan men, and three of the top six in the women’s field (thank you, Paula). Kenyans also account for all 8 male steeplechase winners since 1984. But the number of Kenyans banned for taking illegal substances has soared in the past few years, and Kenya doesn’t have an answer for this trend. One of the nation’s most successful distance runners, Moses Kiptanui, has claimed that doping in Kenya is rife. Maybe, come 2016, another nation will have the chance to win a steeplechase race for once?

Speaking optimistically, the two countries will (probably) get it together and sort out their doping issues. If they don’t, though, the stars of 2016 could be very different to those of 2012.

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