Seasoned journalist talks media journey in covering doping menace in Kenya

6th July 2024

fFormer BBC sports presenter Michelle Katami shared her thoughts about the status of doping coverage then and now.

Michelle Katami. PHOTO| SJAK
Michelle Katami. PHOTO| SJAK
  • Doping has been on the rise in Kenya over recent years.
  • ADAK has been at the forefront of combating the menace by trying to educate athletes and other stakeholders as much as possible.

This time of year, high-profile anti-doping messages bring added attention to the sports media ecosystem in the country.

This is the moment Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) partners up with Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) for the annual “Clean Sport Workshop” -now in its fifth edition.

During this year’s workshop, former BBC sports presenter Michelle Katami shared her thoughts about the status of doping coverage then and now.

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Katami, veteran all-round sports journalist formerly with BBC, SuperSport and Radio Africa Group, has seen doping dynamics morph through different guises and here’s what she had to say about her long-standing experience.

“Tackling doping issues back in the day was challenging as one needed to have 100% facts on the table. During the Isaiah Kiplagat regime – there was no ADAK, and AK would just release statements – it was difficult to cover matters doping,” she said.

“Another challenge then was trying to talk to various sources, trying to convince people in the athletics ecosystem to talk about doping and what they knew. Following doping leads was key.”

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“The one thing I have learnt over time is ‘duty of care’; to protect athletes whose lives are in danger, try to shape a different narrative; just like we did when Kenya was on the brink of a possible WADA ban,”

“When covering doping, you have to have your media house back you up 100% in terms of resources, you need to develop good working rapport with athletes and coaches, do your own analysis on performances. Initially, we would say progression but athletics is changing.”

Katami said in finality: “You have to acknowledge the fact that the increase in the number of doping cases has been on the rise, more so in stories featuring Kenyan athletes. In doping, use of the correct terms is of paramount importance, ‘don’t say banned when an athlete is provisionally suspended’.”

Michelle Katami is a freelance multimedia African sports storyteller who loves television production, content generation, writing and media relations.

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