Lessons to learn from William Oloonkishu Yiampoy as we fight to slay doping monster

William Oloonkishu Yiampoy

Head of the Presidential Escort Unit (PEU) William Oloonkishu Yiampoy.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Yiampoy never took shortcuts in his running career, and, equally, has meritoriously risen through the ranks in the police force to become the president’s most trusted guard.
  • His story teaches latter day athletes that there should be no short-cuts in life, and that there’s no substitute for sheer hard work.

Last week, President William Ruto appointed Assistant Inspector General of Police William Oloonkishu Yiampoy as head of the crack Presidential Escort Unit (PEU).

Yiampoy, 48, took charge of the elite presidential guard from Senior Assistant Inspector General of Police, Josphat Kirimi, who was elevated to head the National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Unbeknownst to many, Yiampoy (MBS) is a track legend, a former Africa 800 metres champion (Brazzaville, 2004) with a World Championships bronze medal (Helsinki, 2005) in his two-lap collection.

Rashid Ramzi

Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi (113) crosses the finish line to win the 800 metres race at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, defeating Kenya’s William Yiampoy (573). Ramzi tested positive for doping. Yiampoy in the new head of the crack Presidential Escort Unit.

Photo credit: File | AFP

Born in Trans Mara on May 17, 1974, Sosio High School alumnus Yiampoy enlisted in the National Police Service in 1991, rising through the ranks to join the PEU in 1997 and has served diligently in the Office of the Deputy President and, now, at State House.

During his running career, Yiampoy was there or thereabouts, a regular in the national squad to various continental and global championships since making the big breakthrough at the 1999 National Championships having taken up running seriously while at the Kenya Police Training College at Kiganjo.

Yiampoy never courted controversy and was a role model athlete to many, juggling his training between Ngong and the northern Italy city of Verona under the tutelage of 1987 New York Marathon silver medalist, Gianni Demadonna.

Havard and Columbua-schooled journalist John Manners aptly captures Yiampoy’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings in a bio he penned for World Athletics some years back:

“Yiampoy began his international career in summer of 1999 with nine European races, mainly in small meets. He ran twice as many international races the next year,” Manners wrote.

“He fell during the final of 2000 Kenyan Olympic trials but was called to Sydney to replace ailing trials winner Patrick Konchellah.

He finished fifth in Olympic semi-final while suffering after-effects of malaria and won Kenya's 2001 World Championships trials in 1:44.24, but was edged for bronze in the Edmonton final (1:44.96).”

“Yiampoy is the latest in a line of brilliant Maasai 800-metre runners that dates back 20 years and includes not only the two-time World Champion Billy Konchellah but also his brother Patrick, the 1994 Commonwealth Champion, Stephen ole Marai, the 1987 World Championship finalist, and Billy's son Gregory Konchellah (Youssef Saad Kamel of Bahrain). All come from Yiampoy's home area, Kilgoris.”

Manners explained that unlike the other Maasai runner who were “sons of comparatively progressive, Westernised families,” Yiampoy's family adhered strictly to Maasai tradition.

They were true hustlers.

“His father, ole Yiampoy, a celebrated warrior and cattle raider in his youth, could see no point in Western education or sport, and only when pressed by local government authorities did he agree to send any of his children to school.

“Even then, he refused to part with any of his favored children lest they be lost or corrupted. Instead he chose scrawny little William. But when reports reached him that his son was repeatedly ranked at the top of his class, his attitude began to change.”

Yiampoy elected to join the police force where he earned promotions for distinguished service, making Mzee ole Yiampoy proud until his demise in 1999.

And the one minute, 42.91 seconds 800m star has never looked back since, transitioning seamlessly from a successful elite running career to an equally stellar one in uniform.

Yiampoy never took shortcuts in his running career, and, equally, has meritoriously risen through the ranks in the police force to become the president’s most trusted guard.

His story teaches latter day athletes that there should be no short-cuts in life, and that there’s no substitute for sheer hard work.

Yiampoy doesn’t comment much on athletics these days, but I’m certain he’s disturbed by the rising number of athletes suspended for either using banned performance-enhancing substances or for blatantly flouting anti-doping protocols.

This year alone, close to 30 Kenyan athletes have been sanctioned for breaking anti-doping rules and there is concern that a trend is emerging, with the use of triamcinolone and acetonide.

These are banned, synthetic glucocorticoids (potent steroid hormones) which help reduce inflammation and treat articular sprains, pain and injuries.
Just over a week ago, the AIU suspended Boston Marathon champion Diana Kipyokei and fellow marathoner Betty Wilson Lempus for breaching World Athletics Anti-Doping rules.

Investigations found both athletes had traces of triamcinolone and acetonide.

The AIU notes that 10 Kenyan athletes tested positive for these particular prohibited substances between 2021 and 2022 while, within the same time period in athletics globally, just two positive triamcinolone/ acetonide cases were recorded!

The AIU also reported that from 2017 to 2020, only three Kenyan cases of illegal triamcinolone acetonide use were recorded.

Doesn’t this point at a trend of systematic doping in Kenya?

And if does, aren’t we courting a Russia-style blanket ban from competition for not stepping up the fight against doping?

Our athletes should learn from Yiampoy that there are no quick fixes in life, and that they must train hard, run clean and focus on preparing well for life after elite competition.

Hard, honest work eventually pays. Because if Yiampoy doped for easy pickings, he wouldn’t be in the enviable position of the president’s most trusted guard today.

I’m hopeful that the current partnership between Athletics Kenya, Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya, Athletics Integrity Unit and the World Anti-Doping Agency will nip the rising Kenyan doping cases in the bud.