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Online fight against doping way to go amid pandemic

By Christopher Owuor
Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
Google Loon internet balloons. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Simon Mwangi   

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a huge blow to the fight against doping in sport, with calls for social distancing affecting critical activities such as testing and anti-doping education. 

Across the world, Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) are increasingly finding themselves re-designing their models to cope with the new normal of conducting anti-doping education online.

There are challenges associated with this technique of conducting business, especially in a country such as Kenya which is the bedrock for athletics. 

The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) has come up with a plan on how to roll out online anti-doping education sessions for athletes and their support personnel across all sports disciplines. 

Considering that sports activities have ground to a halt, there have been reports of some athletes in Kenya turning to other economic activities for survival.

This means that extra effort is required to ensure that such persons access the online resources earmarked for anti-doping education. 

The sessions will involve live online meetings between anti-doping educators and a select group of athletes or support personnel (coaches, technical managers, team doctors etc) on specific topics.

Before the pandemic, education workshop sessions were conducted physically in classrooms-style to target groups. 

Statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya indicate that as of December 2019 there were approximately 46,870,422 Internet users in the country representing 87.2 per cent penetration.

Couple this with the fact that Google Loon internet balloons went airborne in the Kenyan space towards the end of April and you have a conducive environment for effective internet-based anti-doping education sessions. 

Largely, the country boasts a youthful population that also dominate the sports sector.

The census report revealed that more than half of the Kenyan population is below the age of 35 years, with the age distribution between male and female genders averagely equal.

All these statistics serve to reinforce the fact that indeed online anti-doping education interventions can and should work.

It further cements the fact that most Kenyan athletes are educated and can access the internet.

Developed countries have for a long time been leveraging on online platforms in the fight against doping.

However, these interventions were being carried out alongside physical meetings where anti-doping education was also carried out.

Increasingly, most sports disciplines across the world are demanding that athletes be sensitised on anti-doping issues before they attend any major competitions. 

Online learning presents new ways of content delivery and in a subject as interesting as anti-doping, this new normal is bound to generate a lot of interest from athletes. 

This spells a new dawn in the fight against doping in Kenya and may also serve as an African lesson moving forward.

The success of this venture means corresponding effort in trying to slay the doping dragon which has dogged the sports industry in this country for years on end. 

Hopefully, this is going to be the magic wand which will save Kenya’s athletics sector from always being categorised in the Red Zone of doping risk. —The writer is an educator, Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya