NAIROBI, July 21 (Xinhua) -- A former Kenyan international athlete said on Saturday that the number of the country's runners returning positive results for banned performance-enhancing substances has stolen their fellow countrymen's passion for the sport.
Julius Ndegwa, who competed for the East African nation in the 800m and 1,500m, told Xinhua that Kenyans are no longer sure whether the person they are cheering is running clean or not.
"Gone are the days when Kenyans were spell-bound in athletics and followed the performance of their athletes across the world. Nowadays major global wins go unheralded and unnoticed," Ndegwa said.
"Of course not every athlete is cheating. There are plenty of runners who are training hard, running clean and winning by the sweat of their brow," Ndegwa, who is now an accomplished coach, added.
His comments come in the wake of Olympic champions Asbel Kiprop and Kenyan-turned Bahranian Ruth Jebet being in the list of 109 athletes facing disciplinary action from the International Association of Athletics Federations Athletes Integrity Unit (AIU) for alleged doping offenses.
Last year, the Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong received a four-year ban after she tested positive for banned substance EPO or erythropoietin, which is used to boost the production of red blood cells and encourage more oxygen flow in the body.
Before Sumgong's suspension, another marathon star, the former 2013 Boston Marathon and Chicago Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo, faced the same punishment in 2015 for using the same substance.
"It is as if Kenyan athletes don't care any more. The aura of invincibility has since dissipated and a Kenyan win is nowadays not celebrated like before," Ndegwa said, adding that marathon has become a doping ground because financial rewards are greatest there.
Over 40 Kenyan athletes have received bans for using performance-enhancing substances and pundits reiterate that the number is more likely to go up going by the recent trend.
Pundits say athletics is Kenya's most successful sport yet an arena where it is held hardly draws a sizeable crowd despite the fact that the venues don't charge for entry.
For years many people gave Kenyan athletes the benefit of doubt when it came to doping and cheating, but not anymore as one big name after another enter the roll of shame.
"It makes you wonder why the most talented athletes in the world who are born and raised at altitude and already with an advantage over most runners justify to themselves that it is okay to cheat," Ndegwa said.