Michael Pavitt ©ITG

“It’s a disgrace, especially to the sport and ourselves as champions. It is a disgrace to hardworking athlete when athletes have been found using performance enhancing drugs.”

The words of Beijing 2008 Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop to the BBC in 2016, as they visited Kenya to examine concerns over the prevalence of doping.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and Kiprop is one of four Kenyan athletes currently listed by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) as serving a provisional suspension following a doping offence. A further 18 are serving bans.

Over 40 Kenyan athletes are reported to have failed drug tests within the past four years. There is quite a roll call.

Three-time world champion Kiprop is among the country’s leading lights to have had the spotlight turned upon them over a doping controversy. The 29-year-old, who was retrospectively awarded his Olympic title after Bahraini Rashid Ramzi tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO), recently gave up his fight against his charge for the same substance.

While maintaining his innocence, he claimed he did not have the finances to challenge the case, despite claiming he was the subject of extortion by doping control officers.

Asbel Kiprop is one of numerous Kenyan stars to have been embroiled in doping controversies in recent years ©Getty Images
Asbel Kiprop is one of numerous Kenyan stars to have been embroiled in doping controversies in recent years ©Getty Images

It would have been easier to try to believe this explanation had Kiprop been an isolated case from Kenya.

Instead he looks set to join a list of banned Kenyan athletes whose reputation has taken a damaging and likely irreparable hit.

The list includes three-time Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo and Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists Jemimah Sumgong. You can also include reigning Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet, who now represents Bahrain but continues to train and live in Kenya where she was born.

Another link between the four is the presence of EPO.

Sadly, there does not seem to be a slowing down of drug cases coming out of Kenyan athletics. A steady stream has turned into a flood in recent weeks.

World Championships 800 metres bronze medallist Kipyegon Bett was last month charged for evading a drug test, only to later receive notification of a positive test for EPO. He followed reigning Athens Marathon champion Samuel Kalalei, 2006 Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres winner Lucy Wangui Kabuu and sprinter Boniface Mweresa being charged for offences.

It is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion from the recent spate of cases. The back-to-back cases might simply by a fortunate run for the clean sport movement, although an unfortunate one for Kenyan athletics as the doping stain becomes harder to wash clean.

We can wonder whether improved testing in the region has led to a spike or wonder whether athletes have been less cautious when trying to cheat the system. Perhaps the worst case scenario is that doping might be so prevalent that the odds of catching an athlete are so much higher.

Kenya's Rio 2016 athletics manager Michael Rotich has been accused of involvement in a doping conspiracy ©Getty Images
Kenya's Rio 2016 athletics manager Michael Rotich has been accused of involvement in a doping conspiracy ©Getty Images

This is clearly not questioning that Kenya would enjoy the rest of the world thinking, but it is not the first time they are being asked about their doping record.

After all, the country was declared non-complaint by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in May of 2016, before altering their Parliament’s anti-doping act to earn a reprieve before the Rio Olympics.

With the continued positive tests, the time has surely come to consider when the patience afforded to Kenya runs out.

The country’s problem does not appear to be solely down to the athletes, with officials having also been embroiled in scandal.

In May, Kenya's athletics team manager at the 2016 Olympic Games, Michael Rotich, was charged with alleged involvement in a doping conspiracy. He was accused of taking bribes to forewarn athletes about doping tests, as well as conspiring to unlawfully promote the use of prohibited substances to athletes.

A Kenya Member of Parliament last week placed the blame for the cases on “local and international trainers”. The assertion partly mirrored a declaration by former marathon star Tegla Loroupe in 2014 that foreign coaches were at fault for the surge.

Other claims for the continued positive tests include a poor education for athletes, while the intense competition for places and financial rewards on offer must also be considered.

Given the length of time this has gone on for and the lack of progress being made by officials in Kenya, can they really be trusted to sort this out for themselves?

Athletics Kenya announced an oversight committee last month in a bid to tackle their doping crisis ©Twitter/Athletics Kenya
Athletics Kenya announced an oversight committee last month in a bid to tackle their doping crisis ©Twitter/Athletics Kenya

It is hard not to draw comparisons with Russia, where a lack of progress being made by officials in the country currently ensures their National Federation remains suspended. Kenya, you could certainly argue, have enjoyed a much longer leash.

Kenya have established an Oversight Committee in a bid to tackle the issue, under the instruction of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It followed the IAAF Council placing Kenya as one of four countries considered most likely to have doping problems, along with Belarus, Ethiopia and Ukraine.

Could further measures from the sport’s governing body have a greater impact than continuing to allow Kenya to struggle to solve problems they have seemingly made little progress in tackling in recent years?

Is it time for them to do so?

Certainly there needs to be a constructive process with Kenya to bring about genuine and hopefully lasting change.

There was a boost last week when it was confirmed that a first East African  accredited laboratory had been approved. The laboratory in Kenya's capital Nairobi, hailed as a major development for the region's drug crisis, came as part of a project funded by the AIU, who identified the area as being one particularly need.

The project has the feel of a good step, but there appear many more miles left to be run before Kenya emerges from its current crisis.

Does patience finally run out before then, though?