February 24, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) Kenya's sports minister blasted the country's national track and field federation over its doping crisis on Wednesday, calling for elections to choose a new leadership and claiming that IAAF President Sebastian Coe ''alluded'' to him that the world governing body had also lost faith in Kenyan athletics officials.

Sports minister Hassan Wario launched his stinging criticism during a Kenyan television show on which the acting president of Athletics Kenya, the track federation, was also appearing.

The sport in Kenya is in a mess, with more than 40 athletes failing doping tests since 2012 and four high-ranking federation officials under investigation for doping cover-ups and other alleged wrongdoing. The country is also under threat of a ban from international competition, including the Olympics, for being in breach of world anti-doping rules.

''Probably the way out of this is a very free and fair election so that we get a new team of people on board and we engage with them,'' Wario said on the TV show, challenging AK's acting head Jackson Tuwei, his fellow guest. ''Kenyans have lost faith in what is going on in that federation as it is now.''

Wario also said he'd met recently with Coe, and the world governing body's patience with Kenyan athletics officials was running out.

''I went to see the IAAF president and that is what he alluded to me ... that he had lost confidence with AK and asked me to work together to crack the whip,'' Wario said.

Three of Athletics Kenya's most senior officials have been suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations, pending investigations by its ethics committee over alleged doping cover-ups. AK President Isaiah Kiplagat, vice president David Okeyo and chief executive Isaac Mwangi are all under investigation, as is the federation's former treasurer.

Mwangi was placed under investigation this week after two athletes who failed doping tests alleged in an interview with The Associated Press that he tried to extort bribes totaling $48,000 from them in exchange for organizing lenient bans.

With Kiplagat suspended, Tuwei is in temporary charge of a federation under severe scrutiny. On the TV show, he denied AK officials could have reduced doping bans, saying sanctions were decided by an independent medical and anti-doping commission.

Tuwei also defended senior AK officials against allegations that they embezzled money meant for the federation from sponsor Nike. Kiplagat, Okeyo and former treasurer Joseph Kinyua, who was the manager of Kenya's team at last year's world championships, are accused of embezzling around $700,000.

But Wario continued his attack: ''One of the major problems with federations is people staying there for 30 years or 40 years without putting proper structures, with very little transparency,'' he said. ''For instance, Nike deals don't pass through any government agency. We don't know. It's shrouded in secrecy. Everything is done behind us.''

Earlier, Wario said new legislation to make doping a criminal offense will be presented to Kenya's parliament on Monday as the country scrambles to avoid being declared non-compliant with world anti-doping rules. The proposed legislation was now ready to go to lawmakers for approval, he said.

Anti-doping legislation is one of the things Kenya must put in place by an April 5 deadline or face being declared non-compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency. That could lead to a ban for its track and field athletes from international competition, including the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Coe previously said that the IAAF would consider banning Kenya, like it did with Russia, if the country was in breach of anti-doping rules.

Kenya's government must also provide proper funding for the new national anti-doping agency. The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya received $3 million of the $5 million the government approved for its setup costs only 10 days ago, said its chief executive, Japhter Rugut. ADAK has faced a long delay in starting work after being formally established over a year ago. It was given approval by the government to operate only in December.

WADA has been critical of Kenyan authorities, who have had nearly four years to act after serious problems of doping among its runners were uncovered in 2012.

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