Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — Some of Kenya’s newly crowned track and field world champions returned home on Tuesday and were ferried to a celebratory breakfast in a convoy of limousines bearing the logo “Hotbed of Champions.”
Javelin gold medallist Julius Yego, 400-meter hurdles champion Nicholas Bett and steeplechase winner Ezekiel Kemboi were among those met at an airport in Nairobi by Deputy President William Ruto, who danced with them on a red carpet.
They will also meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, Ruto said.
Kenya surprisingly topped the medal table at the worlds in Beijing ahead of Jamaica and the United States after winning seven golds and 16 medals overall.
Middle-distance champions David Rudisha and Asbel Kiprop didn’t return home, instead travelling to Europe for the continuation of the Diamond League series.
But while the East African nation celebrates, Kenya’s track federation head has announced that investigations are underway into the failed doping tests of two team members, who were sent home early from the championships.
Joyce Zakary, a 400-meter runner, and hurdler Koki Manunga tested positive for banned substances in Beijing, further denting Kenya’s reputation with the country already the subject of allegations of widespread doping and ineffective controls.
On Monday, Athletics Kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat said investigations were underway in Kenya after Zakary and Manunga were provisionally suspended by the IAAF for failing the targeted doping tests performed at their hotel just before the competition.
“In spite of being accused of using drugs, Kenya is still on top of the world,” Kiplagat said. “These two girls have given their story and I don’t want to comment on that because they have recorded their statements. Investigations are on.”
The federation had asked Kenya’s new national anti-doping agency to take charge of the investigations, Kiplagat said, even though the body was only set up at the beginning of the year and isn’t officially operating yet.
“(The) IAAF is on top of things. We have asked ADAK to be on top of things too because indications are that we may have leads, and this time if they lead us somewhere, there will be severe punishment,” he said.
Kenyan athletes were tested three times around the world championships, Kiplagat said, before during and after. He said all the other Kenyan athletes were “clear.”
Team manager Joseph Kinyua didn’t comment in detail on the two doping cases when he returned with the athletes.
“Yes there were doping claims but that’s a story for another day,” he said. “We sorted that thing out and sent the girls back home so it did not affect our performance.”
The 29-year-old Zakary broke Kenya’s national record in the 400 meters in Beijing, but didn’t run in the semi-finals as news of the failed tests broke. The two women had accepted provisional suspensions, the IAAF said, but the world body has not identified the substances or said if the athletes have requested their backup “B” samples to be tested.
Having previously denied they had problems with doping, authorities in Kenya were shaken into action when leading marathon runner Rita Jeptoo tested positive late last year for the blood booster EPO, a substance undercover media investigations have claimed is easily available in Kenya.