Kenyan president signs anti-doping bill into law

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law on Friday an anti-doping bill required to avoid a ban from the Rio Olympics for a nation famed for its runners but tainted by a spate of doping cases in recent years.

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The athletics world has been in turmoil since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a report in November citing widespread use of doping in the sport.

Kenya had been given a one-month extension on April 7 to comply with WADA regulations or face sanctions that could include a ban from this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Flanked by senior government officials and sportsmen and women, Kenyatta was shown signing the bill into law in a video released by the president’s office.

“Kenya is 100 percent committed to ensuring total compliance with international regulations on sports and athletics,” he said at the signing ceremony.

“This law is the continuation, not the end, of our efforts to stand against cheating and corruption in the sporting and athletics arena,” he said.

The law, demanded by WADA, will criminalize doping in a country with a history of middle and long-distance running excellence, but tainted by recent doping cases.

Kenya had also missed a February deadline to establish a legal framework for its Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).

In response to Friday’s developments, WADA issued a statement saying its independent Compliance Review Committee will meet early next month to review the decision.

“We understand from media reports that there has been some progress with Kenya’s anti-doping bill,” WADA said in a statement. “Unless (the Compliance Review Committee) deem that the bill, policy and ADAK rules are formally adopted by that date then they will recommend to the WADA Foundation Board that the Kenyan NADO (national anti-doping organization) should be declared non-compliant.”

WADA’s position on the criminalization of doping remains unchanged, saying athletes found guilty of doping should not face criminal charges, although it has encouraged governments to introduce laws to penalize the traffickers and distributors of banned substances.

About 40 Kenyan athletes have been banned for doping in the last three years.

Additional reporting by Martyn Herman; Reporting by George Obulutsa Editing by Edmund Blair, Larry King