Kenyan president says country will meet doping deadline
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Monday he would personally ensure that his country passed legislation to meet a World Anti-Doping Agency deadline, and that would mean there would be no reason to ban its champion runners from the Olympics.
Kenya's government has given the anti-doping bill priority, Kenyatta said, and he was following up with leadership in parliament to ensure it went through.
WADA has given Kenya a final deadline of May 2 to bring its anti-doping program in line with the global code, including passing a law that criminalizes doping, or risk further action by WADA that could lead to an international track and field ban.
Kenya has already missed two WADA deadlines to pass the law and improve other parts of its anti-doping program.
This is its last chance to avoid being declared non-compliant with WADA rules.
''By next week latest, the anti-doping bill will have been passed by parliament and I will have signed it into law so that there will be no excuse to deny our team from participating in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August,'' Kenyatta said. ''We know there are people who are looking for excuses to ensure that Kenya does not participate in the Olympics. We will not give them that excuse.''
Kenyatta's intervention showed how damaging a recent doping crisis has become for the image of athletics in Kenya, the world's leading distance-running nation.
Since the 2012 London Olympics, 40 runners from Kenya have been banned for doping, while four senior athletics officials, including the head of the national track federation, have been suspended by track governing body the IAAF on suspicion of corruption.
Kenyatta spoke Monday at his official residence in Nairobi where he hosted Kenyan athletes who competed in the recent Paris Marathon and the world half marathon championships. Kenyans dominated both events.
''We must win clean,'' Kenyatta told the runners. ''Kenya's undisputed position as world athletics champions should not be tainted by doping.''
Kenya faces the May 2 deadline to pass the legislation and ensure its national anti-doping agency is functioning properly, and WADA will decide if the country has done enough at a board meeting on May 12.
Although being declared non-compliant with WADA's rules doesn't immediately affect Kenyan athletes, it could spur the IAAF to consider further action and a sterner punishment.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe has not ruled out suspending Kenya from international athletics if the country has serious problems with its anti-doping program. The IAAF last year banned Russia after WADA declared it non-compliant because of corrupt activity by anti-doping and athletics authorities.