Kenyan Marathon Runners Are Juiced Up on Anabolic Steroids

  • Tweet

Isaiah Kiplagat, the chairman of Athletics Kenya, has requested the assistance of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate allegations that Kenyan middle- and long-distance runners are using anabolic steroids, erythroipoietin (EPO) and blood transfusions to gain an advantage in competition.

Kenyan distance runners have long avoided suspicions involving the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Their domination has long been attributed solely to environmental and genetic factors unique to Kenya. Recent doping suspensions and incriminating undercover investigations suggest that Kenyan athletes, like athletes around the world, can thank steroids and PEDs for aiding their performances.

Five Kenyan athletes have been sanctioned for violations related to the use of banned PEDs in 2012. The most recent athlete to be suspended has alleged that steroid use and doping is widespread among Kenyan athletes.

Matthew Kisorio, an African junior 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter champion, tested positive for anabolic steroids during the 2012 Kenyan Track and Field Championships in June. Kisorio told the German television station ARD that many Kenyan athletes dope and have never been caught. Furthermore, doctors willing to assist athletes are readily available in Kenya.

“To get my power of endurance up, he [a doctor] told me they will take care of it. I asked if this is considered doping. He said: ‘No problem. The substance stays only three to four days in your blood circulation and then it is impossible to prove,’” Kisorio told ARD. “I went with it, because everyone told me I wasn’t the only one – and none of the others got caught for doping.”

Kisorio’s statements corroborate the conclusions of an ARD undercover investigation conducted in May 2012.

Hajo Seppelt, a journalist employed by ARD, posed as a manager for a European athlete in search of “extra support” for his client. A source within the Kenyan track and field community allegedly referred him to a leading sports medicine doctor. With a hidden camera, Seppelt recorded the doctor detailing the services he offered to elite athletes. These services included the acquisition of steroids, human growth hormone (hGH), EPO and assistance with blood doping. In addition, he regularly checked the blood and urine of athletes to ensure that they never fail a drug test.

Seppelt talked to people who implicated Olympic gold medalist and marathon world record holders. The leading sports medicine doctor reportedly cared for Pamela Jelimo. Jelimo was the 800-meter women’s gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Seppelt interviewed the owner of a “health food store” that sold EPO. The owner told Seppelt that Patrick Makau was a regular customer. Makau set the marathon world record at the 2011 Berlin Marathon with an astonishing time of 2:03:38.

In spite of recent allegations involving Kenyan runner, the Kenyan athletics chairman remains convinced that Kenyan athletes are “very clean”.


Associated Press. (September 27, 2012). Kenya track federation asks world doping body, police to assist in investigation. Retrieved from

Phillips, M. (August 11, 2012). Suspended Kenyan says doping is common. Retrieved from