Monday, July 11, 2016

An unsavoury truth

By now a horrifying thought must be going through your mind. If you are a little like me, even a little bit, you must surely know that Father Christmas is a mythical figure that children revel in even though deep down they must know he doesn't really exist. If your child still believes in Father Christmas at ten, I have to question your emotional and psychological maturity. In the same vein, if it hasn't occurred to you that the last of our national heroes are about to expose their feet of clay, then you really haven't been paying attention.

I hope it is clear to many of you that a great number of our Olympics and IAAF world-beating gold medalists are police and military officers. In light of the revelations about both institutions in recent years, it is almost impossible to continue to believe that the scourge of corruption has not infested either the police or the defence forces and that this corruption has not been manifested in the increasingly loud allegations of doping.

Kenya has an enviable record of world beating track and field athletic achievements. Legends have been created in the rarefied air of Iten's "high altitude" training grounds. When everything else was crashing and burning around our ears, we had our iconic athletes who were purer than the driven snow, more golden than the famed fleece. When they stood tall on top of those podiums and received their medals, wreaths and bouquets of victory, we stood with them. When our national anthem reminded the rest of the world that on the tracks Kenya was a world power, our hearts swelled with pride. No more.

Things have not been the same since the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of female athletes were exposed and the male-dominated Athletics Kenya did the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Scrutiny of the athletics system continues to expose graft on a scale hitherto unknown. With new accusations of doping being levelled against elite athletes and their trainers, we are now at a place where national heroes no longer exist. It really shouldn't come as a surprise; the police service is not known for its integrity after all and the defence forces are increasingly being tarred with the same brush the longer its operations in Somalia remain shrouded in mystery. The recent fiasco around the Anti-Doping Act, 2016, has not helped matters at all.
 
Our elite athletes have remained untainted by any association with their parent services for the longest time because we all believed that when they trained for the marathon or the 10,000 metres races, the Iten air is what gave them that extra "kick" in the final hundred metres of the race. It is this belief that has attracted even elite Ethiopian athletes to come to Iten to train. If it turns out that the extra kick came from dope, then there is no hope for us.

We are no longer children, you and I. We are mature enough to look the horrible truth in the eye. If it turns out that most of our national athletics silverware is the product of chemical-induced greatness, we must face this unsavoury truth with the stoicism we have faced the crumbling of all our other national institutions. One thing is for sure, if doping is the order of the day, first we shall blame the "foreign" trainers, the foreign environment in which our athletes sometimes compete in, the foreign this, that or the other. We will blame the rest of the world rather than admit that the corruption that we have allowed to metastasize in our public institutions has finally infected our last bastion of all that is good with the world. It is only a matter of time before this cancer consumes us all.

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