World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe said Thursday that Kenya faced a “long journey” to tackle a doping crisis that has mired the sport in the track and field powerhouse.
Kenya has vowed to clean up its act after last year escaping a World Athletics ban for drug use that threatened to make the country a sporting pariah.
A raft of Kenyan runners have been suspended after testing positive for banned drugs, with more than 50 Kenyans listed on the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) global list of ineligible athletes.
The East African nation has been in the top category on the World-Anti Doping Agency watch list since February 2016, alongside only Bahrain, Belarus, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria and Ukraine.
“The journey will be a long journey (to clean up athletics),” Coe said at a Nairobi press conference alongside Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba.
“We should not kid ourselves this is going to be achieved overnight,” he added, while also saying he was pleased by Kenya’s commitment to crack down on the problem.
The government has pledged $25 million (24 million euros) over five years to help finance more anti-doping personnel, increase testing and investigation and bolster education programmes.
“It’s inevitable with the extra resourcing, the extra level of testing and the extra level of intelligence from the tests that the number of positives is likely to rise,” Coe said.
“I have always said that I would rather have the short-term embarrassment of a positive test than a long term decline and reputational damage of a sport both locally and internationally.”
Coe spoke to reporters after meeting Kenyan President William Ruto who vowed to “end doping”.
“Kenya will not spare any efforts in the fight against doping,” Ruto said on Twitter. “The Government will go an extra mile in protecting the integrity of athletics.”
Kenya created its own anti-doping agency in 2016 and introduced criminal penalties including jail time for those caught up in cheating.
But nobody has been prosecuted to date, and the number of Kenyan athletes found guilty of doping has only climbed.