Anti-Doping Bill in 1st reading as WADA time runs out

Unless there is urgent intervention, Kenya will not beat the April 5 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) compliance deadline despite the first reading of the Government-sponsored Anti-Doping Bill of 2016 in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

“Order Number 9, the Anti-Doping Bill, National Assembly Bill Number 6 of 2016, first reading. A bill for an act of Parliament to provide for the implementation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Convection against doping in sport.

“The regulation of sporting activities free from the use of prohibited substances and methods in order to protect the health of athletes. The establishment and management of the Anti-Doping Agency (of Kenya) and to provide for agency’s powers, functions and management and for connected purposes,” the clerk to the National Assembly read to the lower house during the first reading where there was no debate.

What stands between the country and a possible international ban for its celebrated track and field athletes is the grant of a possible extension by the global anti-doping watchdog that is running thin on patience after Kenya missed the initial February 11 deadline.

“We have shown commitment and are ready to write to WADA seeking an extension so that the bill goes through public participation as required before it’s is enacted,” National Assembly Leader of Majority, Adan Duale announced.

The country has until Tuesday to enact a law to tackle the anti-doping menace that has brought Kenya to the brink of an international ban from track and field and it is clear legislators will not beat the deadline.

With Thursday’s Presidential State of the Nation address signalling the start of a month-long recess, there is no time for the bill to go through the necessary legislative steps before the WADA deadline.

The State sponsored proposed legislation aims at proscribing the vice that has seen 38 Kenyan athletes banned for anti-doping violations since 2012, a spike that forced WADA to order a crackdown on the country with an established distance running tradition.

Authorities are scrambling to secure another extension and to convince the world anti-doping body it is doing enough to clean up the sport after Kenya was placed among five countries on the red list for lacking structures to combat the vice.

The legislative process includes incorporating stakeholders’ views and debating the bill that could take months with the 2012 Boston Marathon champion and Cherangany Member of Parliament, Wesley Korir, also intending to forward his proposed anti-doping law that conflicts with the Government’s draft as part of amendments during the third reading.

Korir’s Bill which differed with the Anti-Doping Bill 2016 on the formation of ADAK and punishment for doping offenders among other things was cleared for debate in the house earlier this month by the Parliamentary Departmental Committee of Labour and Social Services.

Last week, National Assembly Speaker, Justin Muturi who had ordered the expedition of the matter, announced the Government Bill is the one that would be brought for debate.

Speaking on Tuesday, National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) chairman Kipchoge Keino warned that Kenya has no choice but to pass the bill or face sanctions.

“With the WADA deadline of April 5 when we must have passed the law prohibiting doping or we will be declared non-compliant to Wada Code,” the 1968 and 1972 Olympics champion and the man who is considered as the father of distance running in the nation pleaded.

International exclusion would see the country miss the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and deny the country’s runners who command respect and reverence worldwide an opportunity to earn from a sport that has transformed the livelihoods of entire regions.

-Dominant nation-

Emily Chebet, six other athletes banned for doping
Emily Chebet, six other athletes banned for doping in December last year. PHOTO/File

Kenya is famed for her dominance in long distance running and is among the East African countries that were given a two-month extension by WADA to develop legislation and create a sustainable funding structure or be declared non-complaint.

Three-time Boston and two-time Chicago Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo, Mathew Kipkoech Kisoro (world half-marathon best of 58:46), two-time World Cross women’s winner, Emily Chebet Muge, former national women’s 400m champion, Elizabeth Muthoka, national record holder in women’s 400m, Joyce Sakari and 2012 World Junior women 800m bronze winner, Agatha Jeruto are notable runners who have been banned for doping.

Last November, three senior Athletics Kenya (AK) officials president Isaiah Kiplagat, vice-president and world body IAAF Council Member, David Okeyo and former national treasurer, Joseph Kinyua were suspended to pave way for investigations into allegations that include subverting the anti-doping process.

In February, AK CEO, Isaac Mwangi was also suspended by the Ethics Board of the sport’s governing body following accusations levelled against him by female sprinters, Francesca Koki Manuga and  Sakari. The two alleged that even after failing drug tests Mwangi asked them to part with Ksh2,400,000 each to have their punishments reduced before they were each banned for four years.

On February 13 Kenya’s new anti-doping body ADAK said it had started investigations into the allegations made by the two athletes, where they promised a comprehensive investigation saying  they had set up a committee to investigate the matter.

On 10th March the Parliamentary Committee approved  proposals brought in by Korir for debate in the house.

Report by Vincent Afande and Mercy Rop

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