The head of world track and field's governing body has warned that Kenya is in danger of being banned from competing after it missed a recent deadline to prove to the World Anti-Doping Agency that it is tackling the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Several Kenyan athletes have tested positive for such drugs in recent years. But the acting head of Athletics Kenya, Jackson Tuwei, said Friday that progress was being made.
“We are definitely going to meet the requirements, and in my view I don't think there's any reason to be worried about this," Tuwei said.
Nevertheless, Kenya should heed Thursday's warning from Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said sports analyst Philip Barker, who spoke to VOA via Skype from the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
“It’s certainly not bluffing by the IAAF," Barker said. "Seb Coe came in with a remit [mandate] to be strong on anti-doping and the abuse of doping, and he’s already shown it ... with that ban on Russia in the World Indoor Championships. And now, if Kenya were to be banned here, this would have a major impact on the Rio Olympic Games.”
The IAAF is due to decide in late March whether Russia can compete in Rio, after allegations of the existence of a widespread doping program.
The IAAF, however, is under pressure itself over the scandal, with two of its major sponsors, Adidas and Nestle, pulling out in recent weeks.
Despite the negative headlines over its preparations, Barker said he expects the Rio Olympics to be a success.
“If you remember, there was a lot of doom and gloom before the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and those who went said that ultimately it was a great festival of football,” he said.
There are concerns that the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil and neighboring countries could discourage visitors. Travel analyst Wouter Geerts of trade body Euromonitor said most fans would assess the situation carefully.
“The Olympics, it is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for a lot of people," Geerts said. "There are always issues — also with previous Olympics — there are always issues that people have to weigh up. When you look at the facts, the Zika virus really is impacting pregnant women or women who are trying to conceive.”
Organizers insist Rio will be safe and promise a unique opportunity to experience the first Olympics in South America.