Michael Saruni of Team Kenya competes in the Men's 800m semi-final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. GETTY IMAGES

Kenyan athlete Michael Saruni, 28, has been banned for four years after he was caught trying to send a proxy to a doping test. The 800m runner tried to cheat his way through the test at the national trials for the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games in Nairobi in June 2022. 

Saruni, who was a semi-finalist at the Tokyo Olympics, "then asked a substitute to impersonate him and provide a sample on his behalf," the statement said. The middle-distance runner claimed during the hearing that he was never asked to provide a sample and according to the Kenyan Anti-Doping Agency (ADAK), he literally "escaped". 

One of the best middle-distance runners in the world has been provisionally suspended since January 2023. His sanction will last until the end of August 2027. The athlete will not be able to take part in the next Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris in July and August.

Despite its best efforts, Kenya has not been able to get its doping problem under control. In the last five years alone, nearly 100 athletes have been sanctioned. Most of them are long-distance runners, and in recent months such high-profile athletes such as James Gikunga, Rebecca Jepchirchir and Beatrice Toroitich have tested positive. 

On Tuesday, ADAK announced the bans of 44 Kenyan athletes, including track and field athletes, footballers and swimmers. The bans ranged from one year to life bans from their respective disciplines. 

In April last year, Kenya issued a statement outlining its plan to combat the phenomenon, due to the high number of cases. "The immediate strategic priority is to increase the capacity of ADAK (Kenya Anti-Doping Agency) to conduct more out-of-competition testing of athletes. There is a significant structural flaw in the current organisation that needs to be addressed." 

Meanwhile, Kenya's Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba said the African country aims to conduct 3,445 doping tests on 37,900 athletes annually.