The sports fraternity across board has welcomed CS Amina Mohamed with open arms. The media has been awash with congratulatory messages from sports federations and other players in the sports industry. All indications are that there is a lot of goodwill for the former Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, and career diplomat, to turn around the sports sector and pump a breath of fresh air into one of Kenya’s most conspicuous industries.
Kenya is indisputably the bedrock of sporting talent globally, especially in track and field events. The Rift Valley is home to some of the world’s most outstanding sportsmen and women. While there’s already an emerging problem of elderly, legendary sportspeople retiring into oblivion and subsequently dying in squalor, the government has time and again assured of putting in place mechanisms to address their plight. Perhaps, the diplomat will follow through the effort and ensure the sports sector has a framework for cushioning our retiring sportspeople from the vagaries of old age.
An unsettling blemish on Kenya’s shining running history is the doping menace that has seen the International Association of Athletics Federations categorise the country as being the most at risk of doping. Last year, the IAAF placed Kenya in ‘Category A’ alongside other nations such as Ethiopia, Belarus and Ukraine which stand the greatest risk of doping.
Records show the country has so far sanctioned over 50 of its athletes, most of them in athletics. There have been high profile cases that have put the country on the global spotlight such as the Jemimah Sumgong and Rita Jeptoo’s. The two high-flying runners were the face of Kenya’s girl-power on the athletics stage as their performances electrified the track.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can attribute Kenya’s dalliance with the establishment of a serious Anti-Doping programme to the flurry of activities following declaration of non-compliance to the World Anti-Doping Code in February 2016. At that time, Kenyan athletes participating in the infamous Rio Olympics were preparing themselves for the major event in August that year. It is during this Olympics that Sumgong won Kenya's first Gold medal in the women's
marathon. She is currently serving an eight-year ban for doping and falsification of medical records during her defence.
In September 2017, the global Anti-Doping body declared Kenya fully compliant to the Code after the establishment of the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) through the Anti-Doping Act in April 2016. It was also pegged on the fulfillment of a raft of requirements by Wada, which were as a result of an audit in December of the same year. Today, the Agency has been on the forefront in protection of clean athletes. ADAK hit the ground running by creating awareness to athletes and other players involved in sports.
Their records show over 60,000 persons have so far been reached in these campaigns segmented as workshops, outreach and Values-Based Education (VBE) programmes. The Agency has also tested over 2,500 athletes participating in 2017 and 2018.
The incoming CS Amina is no stranger to all the hullaballoo that followed the declaration of Kenya’s non-compliance by WADA. She was on the forefront in ensuring government delegations travelling to Montreal, Canada, for negotiations with the global Anti-Doping body received Visas and other necessary travel documents in good time. This, therefore, means her pivotal role during that tumultuous period puts her at a vantage position with respect to understanding the danger posed by doping to the Kenyan sport.
With a background in diplomacy and having served nearly all her professional life in related positions, including the United Nations, she brings to the sports scene credentials hitherto attributable to any other former occupant of that office. This means with the international networks she has built over the years, Amina can easily push the fight against doping in Kenya to the highest levels possible.
ADAK, just like any other government agency, suffered budget cuts in the current financial year. Soon after establishment, it was allocated Sh300 million against a request of Sh500 million. In this financial year, the Agency has had to work with Sh275 million for all its operations. And if the current economic outlook in the country is anything to go by, it is anticipated the Agency could suffer more cuts in the coming financial year as government reorganises its resources to fund the Big Four agenda. However, ADAK is a crucial player in the development agenda in this country as it is an enabler of the health pillar of the Big Four.
CS Amina must demonstrate temerity and strong will to combat the doping menace in Kenya by rallying development partners to facilitate the Anti-Doping programmes. She must utilise her international networks to ensure the only government backed Anti-Doping programme being conducted by ADAK grows with the ever-changing dynamics of the anti-doping world.
If anything, should the ambassador (assisted by the PS in the State Department of Sports-who is also a former ambassador, and the chairman of the ADAK Board-another former ambassador) succeed in maintaining a robust anti-doping programme, she will have left an unmatched legacy in the sports docket.
Mwangi is a communication specialist