Sprinter Mark Odhiambo breaks silence first time since suspension

I have always been innocent and I am here to prove it - Odhiambo

Mark Otieno Odhiambo of Kenya (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Former 100m record holder Mark Otieno Odhiambo has released a statement for the first time since he was provisionally suspended for failing a doping test during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Through his social media pages, Odhiambo reiterated that he is innocent, blaming his positive test result to a contaminated nutritional supplement.

"A couple of months ago, I received results from a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited lab confirming my suspicions one of the nutritional supplement that I had been using was contaminated with an undisclosed banned substance," he revealed.

The 28-year-old had been due to compete in the heats of the men's 100m on July 31 2020 but returned an adverse analytical finding for anabolic androgenic steroid.

The test was carried out on July 28 while the athlete was at the Olympic village in Tokyo, before that he had been at a training camp in Japan between July 15 and 24.

"This result proves beyond doubt that I did not dope, as I have insisted from the beginning. I have today made that information public," read the statement in part.

Odhiambo went into great detail explaining how tough the last few months have been, both for him and his family. However, he promised his fans that he will never give up, saying he is on a mission to redeem himself.

"The last many months have been torturous, but I have stayed committed to the disciplinary process I was put under, even as I continue to pursue the avenues to clear my name. I am grateful to have received this vindication," he said.

Odhiambo concluded the statement by divulging that he has been in contact with President Uhuru Kenyatta in an aim to prevent further false accusations for athletes.

"In addition, I have written Petitions to the President, the Cabinet & Parliament outlining my experience and requesting that legislative and policy measures are put in place to better protect young and new athletes from falling prey to the same situation," he disclosed.

Burden on athletes to prove innocence

This is not the first time an athlete has tested positive for a banned substance due to contamination.

In February 2022, Long distance runner James Kibet was also banned by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for four years after testing positive for nandrolone and anabolic steroids.

He claimed he had ingested pork fat from a farmer who admitted to feeding his animals supplements. He also went ahead to submit a video recording of the alleged pig farmer in Eldoret explaining how they farm and feed pigs using supplements.

The AIU argued it is the athlete’s “personal duty to ensure no prohibited substance” enters their body. Cases like these raise questions about the effectiveness of current anti-doping policies.

Recognising the challenge, the latest WADA Code still leaves the burden on the athlete to prove their innocence, but allows for the standard four-year ban to be reduced to a reprimand.

WADA has raised the reporting threshold used by laboratories to determine a potential breach of the WADA Code. This would presumably reduce the number of cases from non-intentional contamination from meats or medicines.

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