The Great Britain 800m runner claims to have witnessed a leading Kenyan distance athlete miss a test after repeated notification
Michael Rimmer believes that Kenya lacks the appetite to adequately tackle the issue of doping, having experienced the paucity of stringent procedures himself.
Rimmer recently returned home from a spell of altitude training in Iten, Kenya – self-styled “Home of Champions” – prior to the East African nation being added to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) compliance watchlist as a result of the insufficient measures being taken to counter the use of performance-enhancing drugs, as well as further allegations of bribery, this time against Athletics Kenya (AK) CEO Isaac Mwangi.
Mwangi opted to step aside from his position for 21 days earlier this week in order to fight to clear his name against “unsubstantiated” claims made by Kenyan athletes Joy Sakari and Koki Manunga that he attempted to solicit bribes from the two runners in exchange for a reduction in their doping suspensions.
Last week Canadian distance runner Reid Coolsaet, training out in Kenya, tweeted: “Kenyan style anti-doping test. Notify us the night before. 1 hour drive to test site at 5am. Many Olympic medallists in house.”
Having visited Iten six or seven times, Rimmer has witnessed first-hand or spoken to many who have seen the lax approach towards drugs testing in the region – instances include being in clear view of lists of scheduled tests, to actually having an ability to read blood vial numbers specific to certain athletes.
He commented: “I just don’t know how seriously others take it. I think some countries just don’t take anti-doing really seriously at all.
“Even just the test itself is not as officious. You’d like it to be the same across the board but it’s quite clearly not.”
One particular occasion from his most recent trip to the Rift Valley, Rimmer claims to have seen a leading female Kenyan distance runner being notified of her scheduled test by an anti-doping official over the phone, twice, before testers left without her sample, having waited for what Rimmer says was “way over an hour”.
“Is that fine or is it a missed test? Is she just not bothered to turn up? Will she get banned?” he said, confirming the situation has been reported to the IAAF.
The WADA International Standards for Testing and Investigations states all out- of-competition tests must be conducted without prior notice to the athlete, but for “exceptional and justifiable circumstances”.
“The feedback you get is Kenyan athletes don’t have addresses, and they’re difficult to track down,” Rimmer added.
“I know where people live and I know others do so why can’t they knock?”
Having idolised former 800m world record-holder Wilson Kipketer as a youngster, Rimmer reiterated his belief that most of Kenya’s runners were clean athletes, citing David Rudisha and 1500m world champion Asbel Kiprop specifically.
Eilish McColgan, who Rimmer spent time training with in Iten, also questioned the Kenyan approach to conducting tests and the issue of an athlete’s “whereabouts”.
“It just seems silly to inform athletes before testing them. It gives them a window to mask the test or find a way to avoid it,” said the Scottish athlete.
“I’m not saying everyone will be cheating. The majority I’m sure won’t be but it gives people the opportunity and that’s a huge mistake on the testing protocol.
“I understand that it’s difficult to locate some of the Kenyan athletes as there aren’t ‘house addresses’ as such. But we aren’t talking athletes of my level, we’re talking Olympic champions, world record-holders. These guys have houses, Wi-Fi etc and it’s very easy to locate them.”