Thursday, January 24, 2013

Caught Doping? Blame Climate Change


A putative doping scandal has besmirched Kenya's reputation as the world's most fertile training grounds for runners. Naturally, the country's track and field officials blame climate change.

"Our country is known for its high performance around the world in middle and long distance," David Okeyo, the Secretary General of Athletics Kenya, told Reuters Foundation's AlertNet. "However, climate change associated with hot weather spells is bringing a lot of complications."

To wit, Kenyans won just two gold medals in the London Olympics, a disappointing haul compared to the six the country lugged home from Beijing four years earlier. Mr. Okeyo attributes the subpar performance to warming in the country's Rift Valley where the athletes train. Over the last 11 years, the average annual temperature has risen to 58.1 degrees Farenheit from 55.4 (These temperatures are considered to be ideal for running). Kenya's gold medal count last summer, however, was no worse nor better than at the 2000 Olympics.

Foreign athletes that once trained in Kenya apparently are also now flocking to better climes. The real reason though likely has to do with a doping scandal exposed last fall by German journalist Hans-Joachim Seppelt. According to Mr. Seppelt, doctors (or those posing as doctors) were "investing" in athletes by selling them EPO at below-market prices in return for a share of the athletes' prize money.

The report came not long after distance runner Mathew Kisorio failed a drug test at the country's running championships. He subsequently accused other Kenyans of doping. Athletics Kenya adamantly denied that doping was widespread and blamed foreign doctors for trying to taint their athletes.

This explanation didn't go over well in the West. So now the Kenyans are using climate change as a red herring to deflect and defuse the scandal. Why didn't Lance Armstrong think of this?

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