January 09, 2015

Kenya's under-pressure athletics federation announced new regulations Friday meant to curb a spike in doping cases among the country's famed distance runners, including banning athletes younger than 20 from taking part in road running competitions.

Athletics Kenya called the announcement ''a policy statement on doping matters,'' and it included new rules for athletes, coaches, agents and meet organizers aimed at fighting ''the doping menace.''

AK also said the country's new anti-doping agency had been formed, something the World Anti-Doping Agency has long pushed for after allegations of widespread doping among Kenyan athletes were made by German broadcaster ARD back in 2012.

In one of the new rules, AK said runners under 20 would not be allowed to compete in marathons and other road running competitions. Kenyan athletics officials have often blamed international coaches and agents for pushing young runners to dope, although a recent government-appointed commission investigating the increase in doping also blamed Kenyan sports authorities for having no effective controls.

Kenya's athletics reputation has been damaged by the series of doping cases, most recently that of top female marathon runner and three-time Boston Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo, the highest-profile Kenyan to test positive for a banned substance. She and her coaches and agent have a hearing with AK next week, with Jeptoo facing a two-year ban after she tested positive for the blood booster EPO in an out-of-competition test in Kenya in September.

The new regulations include measures to properly register runners, coaches and agents, and ensuring doping tests are always conducted at meets. AK also said there would be more focus on the monitoring of athletes' biological passports, or blood profiles, and more out-of-competition tests - measures that are common in most other countries and that critics say should have been implemented by Kenya a long time ago.

''We are going to take very stern action,'' AK President Isaiah Kiplagat said at a news conference Friday to announce the new protocols.

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Follow Gerald Imray on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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