Kenya’s president signed a law today that criminalises doping in a move that will likely help the country avoid sanctions from the World Anti-Doping Agency ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the long-awaited anti-doping bill after it was passed by lawmakers on Tuesday. Kenyatta personally drove the law through parliament after Kenya missed two previous deadlines because of bureaucratic delays.
“Let me be clear that this law is the continuation, not the end, of our efforts to stand against cheating and corruption in the sporting and athletics arena,” Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta’s signature was the last step to implementing the law, one of a number of reforms Kenya needs to make to its anti-doping program by a final deadline of May 2 to avoid being declared non-compliant with WADA’s global code.
A declaration of non-compliance could lead to sterner punishment for Kenya by track and field governing body IAAF, including a possible ban for its athletes from the Rio Games.
Since the 2012 London Olympics, 40 Kenyan athletes have been banned for doping. Recently, four senior track federation officials were suspended on allegations of corruption and possible cover-ups involving the anti-doping process.
Amid that doping crisis, Kenya needed to pass the law and set up and properly fund a national anti-doping agency to appease WADA. Kenya’s previous anti-doping controls were found to be poor.
“Today, I am confident that WADA will look upon the passage of our anti-doping law favorably as a sign of our unwavering commitment to meeting the highest international standards,” Kenyatta said in a speech following his signing of the bill.
The new law calls for a three-year prison term and USD 30,000 fine for people found guilty of doping offenses.
“I want to urge our athletes and sportsmen and women to hold themselves to the highest possible code of conduct,” Kenyatta said. “I know that many do, and I know that the few cases of cheating we have encountered in the past are not a reflection on the integrity of all our athletes. Yet the world will indict us as a country based on the individual breaches of each athlete and each national team.”
The passing of the law by parliament earlier this week was met with relief by some of Kenya’s top athletes, who feared they might be thrown out of the Rio Olympics.
“That’s what WADA was waiting for in Kenya. So we are safe,” London Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge said.