During the 2004 Summer Olympic games in Athens, Kenyan Boxer, David Munyasia was the first athlete to be found in violation of International Olympic Committee anti-doping rules.
The IOC announced that Munyasia, a bantamweight, had tested positive for cathine. He was immediately barred from participating in the Games and he got into the next flight back home.
Everyone in Kenya was shocked by the news and when Munyasia denied ever using a drug, we all believed the boxer was innocent.
But when the Kenya team doctor explained that Cathine was a chemical found in Khat, I got my suspicion that Munyasia was guilty. Khat is a plant that is chewed by many young men in Kenya. Although Khat is illegal in many parts of the world, it’s legal in Kenya. Munyasia later admitted he was a regular user of Khat.
In Kenya it is popularly known as Miraa, a stimulant that causes excitement and euphoria. Almost every young man I know has chewed it at one time during his time in High school. What makes it a drug of choice for many youth is that it is cheap, widely available and has no serious side effects. It’s popularity in this country is second to cigarettes.
When Munyasia was nabbed there was no vicious condemnation in the media like we saw when Marion Jones admitted to drug use. Everyone just told him a polite “sorry” we knew he was a victim of his own innocence. The bad guys here were the officials of National Olympic organizing committee who did not warn the boxer on what he can or can’t chew.
When Munyasia chewed the plant he was just young man having a good time and he had no idea the plant would get him in trouble.