By Isaack Omulo
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Setting up a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory in Nairobi is a huge step in the fight against doping in the African country, Kenyan athletics and anti-doping chiefs said on Monday.
Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent agency of world athletics ruling body IAAF, said on its website that Nairobi will have the first WADA-approved laboratory in East Africa.
The laboratory, which AIU said would analyse between 800 and 1000 blood samples a year as part of the AIU doping control programme in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Eritrea, is being set up at a time when the reputation of the east African nation has been hit by a number of high profile doping cases.
Athletics Kenya (AK) President Jackson Tuwei said the lab offers new hope to the country which is known for its middle and long distance running prowess.
“We have had a number of high profile cases and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. This (lab) means a lot for us. Everything will be easier and the facility will help us fight this menace more effectively,” he told reporters.
“Things will be faster, easier and cheaper and those who want to engage in doping will suffer the consequences. We are currently working very closely with AIU and ADAK and those who want to cheat should start counting their days,” he said.
Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) chief Japhter Rugut said the lab will be “a key milestone in the fight against doping in Kenya and the greater East African region.”
“It has eliminated the tangible risk of blood samples (being) delayed ... for analysis. The capacity and integrity of our blood testing process will be greatly enhanced,” said Rugut.
AIU said the facility, which will analyse samples collected from athletes across the region from September, was given the green light following a nine-month project.
AK said that since 2010 there have been 114 doping cases among Kenyan athletes. Fifty four of these are going through the judicial process.
Earlier this year, 2008 Olympics and three-time world 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop tested positive for the blood booster EPO.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)