Nairobi, Kenya | AFP |
Kenyan lawmakers have held the preliminary reading of a bill criminalising sports doping, just days before a deadline to avoid threatened Olympic expulsion.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) gave Kenya until April 5 to tighten its anti-doping law and provide funding for a proposed Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK), after the east African track giants missed an earlier February 14 deadline.
The Anti-Doping Bill establishes the anti-doping agency and proposes a $1,000 (100,000 Kenyan shillings, 872 euros) fine, and/or a year in jail for athletes caught doping.
Those caught smuggling or administering banned substances face a $30,000 (3 million Kenya shillings, 26,200 euros) fine or a three-year jail term.
The new bill, the preliminary reading of which was held late on Wednesday, is intended to save Kenyan athletes from an Olympics ban threatened by IAAF president Sebastian Coe.
However, parliament is on recess for the next 10 days — until after the April 5 deadline — and the bill requires two further parliamentary hearings, possible committee hearings and presidential assent before becoming law, a process that can take months.
When Kenya missed the February deadline to prove it was doing enough to combat drug-taking, Coe said he would severely punish any country guilty of attempting to cover up doping.
Efforts to comply with the new extended deadline were hampered in February when Athletics Kenya chief executive Isaac Mwangi stepped aside to allow a probe into allegations he sought bribes from two suspended athletes, claims he denies.
Many in Kenya fear doping is rife among their top-class runners, who have been the source of enormous national pride.
The IAAF earlier this month listed Kenya among five countries in “critical care” over their inadequate anti-doping measures.
Some 40 Kenyan athletes have been involved in drug scandals in the last three years and athletics supremo Isaac Mwangi has been suspended for alleged corruption involving doping cover-ups, drawing a sharp rebuke from WADA.
“They are very well aware of what they need to do. They need to reply to us by April 5,” WADA president Craig Reedie said on March 11.
“They simply need to do it. If they don’t do it my compliance review committee will take the matter further,” insisted the Briton, adding a declaration of non-compliance was possible after WADA had brought to light institutionalised doping in Kenya.
“We understand funding is now available and they (Kenya) need to pass legislation, we know the type of legislation they are talking about which is acceptable.”
It remains to be seen whether world athletics authorities will judge Kenya to have taken sufficient steps to avoid further censure.