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Kenya in ‘danger’ of missing Olympics

National Olympic Committee-Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino.PHOTO/FILE

National Olympic Committee-Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino.PHOTO/FILE

NAIROBI, April 1 – Kenya’s Olympic chief warned Friday the east African track giants were in danger of missing Rio after politicians failed to pass a law criminalising sports doping ahead of a key deadline.

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 Nairobi missed an earlier February 14 deadline.

Kenyan lawmakers on Wednesday held the preliminary reading of a bill criminalising sports doping, but then went on recess, making it impossible to pass the bill into law by the Tuesday deadline.

The bill is intended to save Kenyan athletes from an Olympics ban threatened by IAAF president Sebastian Coe.

Kip Keino, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) chairman, said he will appeal to WADA to give Kenya more time to complete the process.

“Kenya is in danger of being locked out of the Olympics,” Keino, himself a two-time Olympic 1,500 metre gold medallist, told AFP. “I am very disappointed with the attitude taken by the leaders. They don’t get the magnitude of all this – they have badly let down the youth of this country.”

The proposed Anti-Doping Bill establishes the anti-doping agency and proposes a Sh100,000 ($1,000) fine, and/or a year in jail for athletes caught doping.

Those caught smuggling or administering banned substances face a Sh3 million ($30,000) fine or a three-year jail term.

But it will require two further parliamentary hearings, possible committee hearings and presidential assent before becoming law, a process that can take months.

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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.

Keino said he had been pushing lawmakers to pass a law for years.

“I brought up the idea in 2013 in South Africa, when Kenya, Jamaica and USA was under discussion, and again in 2014,” he added. “Jamaica and the US were able to resolve their own cases, leaving Kenya alone in this thing. It has taken us three years to get our house in order.”

Many in Kenya fear doping is rife among their top-class runners, who have been the source of enormous national pride.

In parliament, Keino has the strong backing of lawmaker Wesley Korir – a former Boston 2012 marathon champion turned politician.

“It is a shame that we have to go and beg WADA now, and yet we had a chance to make things right,” said Korir, who has led efforts in parliament to push the bill through.

“The country’s future, whether to participate in the Olympics is now under the mercy of WADA,” said Korir, the first person to call for doping to be criminalised in Kenya, after many athletes were suspended for drug-related offences.

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