A new doping law has come into force in Kenya, which it hopes will help its athletes avoid a ban that could prevent them from competing in Rio. The country has been tainted by a spate of doping cases in recent years.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday signed the legislation, which criminalizes doping activities in the African country. Specifically, the law establishes a legal framework for the country's anti-doping body, the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had threatened to rule Kenya non-compliant with its global code, if it failed to implement the legislation by a final deadline of May 2. The country's lawmakers had already missed two previous deadlines to do so.
At the signing ceremony, President Kenyatta said he was confident that the new law would meet with WADA's approval.
"Kenya is 100 per cent committed to ensuring total compliance with international regulations on sports and athletics," he said at the signing ceremony, adding that the law is the continuation of efforts "to stand against cheating and corruption."
Under the new legislation, any athlete found guilty of using drugs could face a $1,000- (872 euros) fine, while anyone found guilty of having provided or administered banned substances could face $30,000 fine or a three year-prison sentence.
"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."
Some of the country's athletes have welcomed the passage of the legislation. "That's what WADA was waiting for in Kenya. So we are safe," London Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge said.
The world of athletics has been in turmoil since WADA issued a report in November citing widespread use of doping in the sport. The report resulted in a decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to ban Russian athletes over alleged systematic state-sponsored doping, meaning the country's athletes could miss out on competing and the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
WADA is to decide on Kenya's case during a meeting at its Montreal headquarters on May 12. Around 40 Kenyan athletes have been banned for doping offences since the 2012 London Olympics.
pfd/rd (Reuters, AFP, AP)