Until last week I hadn’t been touched by drugs in sport...

I thought I’d seen and heard most things having been involved in athletics for nearly 30 years as an athlete, a sports agent and a coach. I’d heard all the stories of doping but never came across it first hand.   That all changed yesterday when I received a message which included an Anti Doping Athletics Kenya (ADAK) document.  A close Kenyan friend of mine, someone who I shared a bunk bed with for a year, had been found guilty to and admitted to taking EPO.

This came as a huge blow, I couldn’t believe someone so close to me had made the decision to cheat. After what I still believe (but who knows) was a very successful drug free career why make the decision to dope now, so little to gain and everything to lose.

How can I still be friends with someone that had totally broken my trust, cheated the sport I have spent my life pursuing. I’m not sure I can.

Also shocking to me was just how easy it was for my friend to acquire these drugs.  The ADAK report described how he had walked into a local chemist, identified himself as an athlete, handed over the equivalent of £40 in Kenyan shillings (4000) and was given an injection to “assist his running” (EPO) on the spot.

I’d love to believe that there was ignorance at play.  That my friend (& other athletes like him) was duped into believing he was having a healthy shot of multivitamins, but I cannot escape the facts. If you are one of the fastest runners in the world, frequent traveler, experienced racer, having been drug tested on a number of occasions, there is no way that you don’t ask questions when someone is about to give you an injection to assist your running. 

It’s not just the cheating to get faster. It’s the ripple effect of how many lives have been effected by the decision to cheat in terms of lost income & opportunity for other young athletes who have worked hard for little gain. This hurts a lot.

“Mazoezi” Training in Kenya 

“Mazoezi” Training in Kenya 

For me, it will take some time to process this information.  I’m deeply affected by it & at the moment I’m struggling to see the sport I love so dearly in the same way.  My trust is broken & I’m not sure it can be won back. 

Yet despite all of this I continue to put on my trainers twice a day like I have for the entirety of my adult life.   I will continue to find my honest best & I can only hope that there are enough others who will do the same. There is so much more to gain from this sport than winning races.

Tom xx

Thomas PaynComment