November 27, 2015 / 3:01 PM / 2 years ago

Kenya government not taking doping seriously: athletes' group

Protesting Kenyan athletes are seen inside the compound of Riadha House where the leadership of Athletic Kenya (AK) operates from in capital Nairobi November 23, 2015.Noor Khamis

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's government is not taking seriously the problem of doping among the nation's athletes and the country needs help from international sports bodies to tackle the issue, a report compiled by Kenyan said.

Kenya boasts some of the world's finest middle and long-distance runners but in recent years has been shaken by a spate of failed drug tests by athletes.

The Professional Athletes Association of Kenya (PAAK), whose president is the two-time London marathon winner Wilson Kipsang, said it wanted more help from Kenya's government, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the world athletics body IAAF.

"We confess doping is a real problem in Kenyan athletics," PAAK said in a statement summarizing a doping report it sent to the IAAF, WADA and the International Olympic Committee.

"Doping has not been accorded the seriousness it deserves by relevant authorities in Kenya," said the statement dated Nov. 11 and circulated to reporters on Friday.

The crisis in Kenyan athletics deepened this week when PAAK athletes stormed headquarters of the athletics federation and barricaded themselves inside in protest about corruption and feeble efforts to tackle doping.

The stand-off ended after talks with government officials who called for top Athletics Kenya (AK) bosses to step aside while they were investigated by police for corruption.

AK officials have denied embezzling funds relating to a corporate sponsorship deal and say Kenya is doing its best to root out drug cheats despite limited resources.

Kenya topped the medals table at the August world championships in China but PAAK athletes worry dozens of failed tests and alleged graft by AK chiefs could see Kenya follow Russia in being banned from international track and field.

Kipsang, a former marathon world record holder, has told Reuters that PAAK was formed as Athletics Kenya had failed to look after athletes' interests and tackle doping.

PAAK said athletes themselves were now investigating doping. The group has also distributed leaflets to pharmacies and doctors in Kenya's western running heartlands near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret advising what drugs athletes cannot use.

PAAK said doping was a "politicized matter in Kenya", and previous promises made in the media were not followed up on.

The athletes' group has urged WADA to carry out testing out of competition times in Kenya and promised to help investigations into alleged doping cover ups by Athletics Kenya, something AK officials strongly deny doing.

"Bringing sanity and restoring trust lost by athletic fans is (our) ultimate goal," the PAAK statement said.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic, Editing by Edmund Blair and Angus MacSwan

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