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Kenyan athletes to face jail for doping under draft bill

The Kenyan authorities have drafted a strict new law in order to comply with WADA order to crack down on the practice among athletes.

Junior athletes compete in cross country in Eldoret, Kenya.
Ben CurtisAP

Kenyans convicted of doping offences will face at least three years in prison and heavy fines under a draft law to be submitted to parliament, the chairman of a government-backed anti-doping task force told Reuters.

Under the bill, anyone caught possessing, stockpiling or distributing banned substances could instead be fined up to 1 million shillings ($9,830), more than seven times average per capita income in Kenya.

Medics convicted of prescribing or administering doping agents to athletes in Kenya, or abroad, face similar penalties. Registered sports bodies that fail to comply with anti-doping regulations will lose public funding and could be struck off.

"All sports bodies were taken through it and their comments noted," Moni Wekesa, who chairs the National Task Force of Anti-Doping, told Reuters. They were shown the bill on Wednesday.

Wekesa said further consultations on the bill would be held before it was sent to cabinet and then on to parliament. Neither Hassan Wario, the sports minister, nor the ministry's top civil servant, Richard Ekai, were immediately available for comment.

Kenya has been hugely successful in middle and long-distance running for decades but the sport, which carries enormous prestige in this East African nation, has been overshadowed by doping allegations that have tainted athletics globally.

Kenya remains a global leader in endurance running both on the track and in big-city marathons but around 40 of its athletes have been banned for doping in the last three years.

Athletics is big business in Kenya's running heartlands northwest of the capital Nairobi. The trickle-down effect of race fees -- the Boston marathon winner takes home $150,000 -- and lucrative sponsorship deals play an important part in the local economy.

In the Rift Valley's Eldoret, Iten and Kapsabet areas, many new hotels, villas and even schools are built by successful athletes whose rags-to-riches stories have seen them amass wealth far beyond the grasp of local subsistence farmers.

Wekesa also said that although the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had given Kenya a Feb. 11 deadline to put in place anti-doping laws, the body was working closely with the Kenyan government to make the nation doping free.

"The deadline by WADA was set to see whether Kenya is serious about being compliant with WADA requirement or not," said Wekesa, a law professor at a private Kenyan university. "One of those requirements was to set up an active and vibrant anti-doping agency, which has been set up. Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) is up and running, with an initial funding by the Government of 500 million shillings," he said.

WADA officials visited Kenya on February 1 and were briefed about Kenya's progress in the fight against drugs cheats, he said. "They were assured that the government is serious about being compliant," Wekesa added.


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