KIMANA, Kenya - Kenyan Olympic 800-metre champion David Rudisha has warned fellow athletes they are risking the reputation of their east Africa nation by taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Kenya, whose naturally gifted distance runners are an immense source of national pride, was shocked by the revelation that Rita Jeptoo, the world's current top female marathon runner, tested positive for banned drugs.
"It's hard, because Kenya is known for its good reputation in athletics, and we have been having good athletes doing tremendously on the world stage without engaging themselves in this drug," the world record holder Rudisha told AFP.
"We encourage people to work hard so they can achieve what they are gifted for, and not to cut a shortcut. Because this is really bad, not only for our country Kenya, but it's also ruining the image of our sport."
The warning comes in the wake of the shock revelation in October that Jeptoo tested positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO during an out-of-competition anti-doping control.
"We want to tell Kenyans that doping is not good, and it's something that is not good for your own reputation," Rudisha added.
"Because you can imagine you have been running, for example, for five years. You have been doing very well, for example. Then one day when you are caught you lose everything; your reputation, your respect from colleagues."
Kenya has been under pressure to take action over doping after a string of positive tests in recent years.
But Jeptoo's positive test - making her the first big-name Kenyan athlete to have been caught - has stunned Kenya, whose distance runners are national heros and a major money spinner in the high-altitude Rift Valley region.
Rudisha was speaking Saturday at the "Maasai Olympics", a sports day organised by conservationists designed to provide an alternative test of the warriors' strength, who have for generations proved their manhood by killing a lion.
Rudisha, himself a Maasai, is patron of the games.
The games offered warriors a chance to compete using traditional hunting skills, but tested instead in a sports competition.
Africa's lion population has dropped by almost a third in the past two decades, with 30,000 of the big cats now left across the continent, according to experts.