NAIROBI, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- On Sept. 22, just days before the Doha 2019 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Kenya was hit by another doping storm when German public broadcaster ZDF alleged widespread substance abuse in the East African distance-running powerhouse.
Footage broadcast in the bombshell report purported to show a top male and female athlete being injected with the performance-enhancing substance EPO in pharmacies. There are also claims from a doctor that Kenyan athletes and officials have found a way to sidestep testing methods.
It elicited strong-worded responses from Athletics Kenya (AK) and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) as the integrity of the sport in a country where over 60 runners have been banned for anti-doping violations came into question.
"Once again, we cannot authenticate whether this is true or not, but it would be unfortunate if such incidences are taking place especially in the wake of heightened effort to promote clean sport in Kenya. We wish to appeal to you (ZDF) to share with us the identities, footage or any other evidentiary material to support this claim so that the culprits can be dealt with in line with the laid down procedures," ADAK chief executive, Japhter Rugut responded.
AK president, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei, who was in Qatar at the time disputed the story in a lengthy statement that among other things, highlighted two letters allegedly sent from the federation to Athletes Representatives were 'fake'.
The letters whose screengrabs were aired by ZDF asked the concerned agents or managers to 'act fast' to prevent their clients from being banned and appeared to bear a fake official stamp from the federation.
"It will be noted that the word Athletics is misspelled, and the letter 'L" is missing. The letter is consequently a forgery - a very poor attempt indeed to forge the rubber stamp of Athletics Kenya. This shows the length to which these malicious persons will go in their attempt to tarnish the Kenya Athletics," Tuwei fired.
Since then, however, Kenyan runners have gone on to blaze the track and the roads at international meets in defiance of the shadow of doubt cast over their mastery of distance running.
At the Doha worlds, the country finished second behind the United States in the medal charts with 11 medals, five golds, two silvers, and four bronzes to retain their position from London 2017 in the standings.
Before the dust could settle on Doha 2019, Olympic champion and world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human being to run the marathon distance in under two-hours at the INEOS 159 challenge on Oct. 12. In his second attempt at the feat at a specially prepared race in the Austrian capital Vienna, Kipchoge stopped the clock at a staggering 1:59:40.2 to enter annals of history by breaking a barrier deemed impossible.
A day later, compatriot Brigid Kosgei took to the streets of Chicago and smashed the 16-year-old women marathon world record when she completed the course in 2:14:04. Aided by pacemakers just as previous record holder Britain's Paula Radcliffe, Kosgei obliterated the previous seemingly untouchable standard of 2:15:25 ran in 2003 by over a minute.
Another Kenyan, Lawrence Cherono bagged the men's race of the World Marathon Majors (WMM) event at 2:05:45, clinching the coveted title by only a second after out-kicking Ethiopian pair Debela Dejene and Asefa Mengstu in a riveting finish.
Last weekend, the final WMM event of the year, New York Marathon, produced two Kenyan winners with Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor - a training partner of Kipchoge - reclaiming the men's crown he won in 2017 in 2:08:32, leading countryman Albert Korir (2:08:36) to the 1-2.
Debutante, Joyciline Jepkosgei (2:22:38) stunned four-time winner and world record holder (women's only race) Mary Keitany (2:23:32) for another Kenyan 1-2 in the corresponding women's race.
Perhaps the performance that best exemplifies the defiance in the face of the Kenyan doping scourge came at Sunday's Beijing Marathon.
Convicted of drug cheating in 2012, Matthew Kisorio has since brought his distance career back on track and in the Chinese capital, he delivered redemption when he rewrote the men's course record at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
The 30-year-old clocked 2:07:06 to earn his second victory over the classic distance, knocking 10 seconds off the course record set six years ago by Ethiopia's 2013 world bronze medallist Tadese Tola.
"It is my first time to run in Beijing and I am very happy to win and to break the course record. The weather was fantastic. I expect to come to Beijing again next year," Kisorio, who set his lifetime best of 2:04:53, last year in Valencia, said.