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In the nearly 40 years Brother Colm O’Connell has lived and coached distance runners here the rainy season is a minor inconvenience.Unlike in Mallow, Cork, where he grew up, the seasons in Iten are more reliable.
It’s no longer a passing threat, but a grim and sobering reality, with no sign of when, or if, it will ever clear.
At stake is the wonderfully and previously squeaky clean reputation of Kenyan distance running, which Br Colm has spent much of his life nurturing and championing.
“I think of the old phrase, ‘tell me it isn’t so’, but it is so,” he says.
“Like a lot of people, I would always have considered the elite Kenyan distance runners to be clean. And as a coach, it definitely knocks a bit of the wind out of your sails. That’s the big question now.” No one with an interest in Kenyan distance running was naive enough to believe it was immune from doping – certainly not Br Colm.
Photograph: Getty Images It’s rainy season in Iten, and dark clouds can linger, for days, blanketing the village that lies perched at 7,875ft on the western escarpment of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.
Still visible on the only road that runs through it are two red rectangular arches, on the way in and out, the Kenyan flag painted down each side, and six words written across the top in large white capital letters: Welcome to Iten – Home of Champions. No village on earth – or indeed country, for that matter – has produced more distance running champions than Iten.
No one even keeps track anymore, such is the number of Olympic and World champions who were born, raised or else moved here to train.
When big city marathon winners are included the list of champions runs to several hundred.
Kenya’s David Rudisha, 800m world record holder and Olympic champion, with his coach Br Colm O’Connell.
The Mallow man believes it is time for the Kenyan athletics federation to take action.
Photograph: Getty Images Rita Jeptoo of Kenya celebrates after winning of the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 12, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
Jeptoo had tested positive for EPO two days before the New York Marathon on November 2nd.