ATHLETICS

New anti-doping law protects Kenyan athletes

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Anti-Doping (Amendment) Bill, 2020 into law.

In Summary

•Kenya has faced a lot of scrutiny in the recent past over cases of doping, leading to some Kenyan athletes being banned.

• Last year alone, at least nine athletes were slapped with bans for testing positive for banned substances.

New anti-doping law protects Kenyan athletes
New anti-doping law protects Kenyan athletes
Image: OZONE

When it comes to sports, Kenyan athletes are seen as the strongest with their outstanding performance over the years. Many athletes from all over the world know their chances are slim whenever they race against Kenyans.

Unfortunately, the country has faced a lot of scrutiny in the recent past over cases of doping, leading to some Kenyan athletes being banned. Last year alone, at least nine athletes were slapped with bans for testing positive for banned substances.

Kenya would also have lost the chance for participation in 2021 athletic events had Parliament not moved with speed to pass the amendments to the country’s Anti-doping law.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Anti-Doping (Amendment) Bill, 2020 into law. The new law amends the Anti-Doping Act of 2016 to align Kenya's legislative framework with the 2021 World Anti-Doping code and regulations.

The new anti-doping law also ensures the continued participation of Kenyan athletes in local, regional and international competitions in line with the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (Unesco) Convention against doping in sports.

Kenya was among countries at risk of being barred from all local, regional and international competitions had it not passed the amended law by December 31 to align with the new code.

The new code — developed in December 2019 — contains the 2021 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods, the summary of major modifications and explanatory notes; and the 2021 Monitoring Programme.

The first World Anti-Doping Code was adopted in 2004. It was amended and a new one adopted in 2009. The just expired one was ratified in 2015 and is replaced by the 2021 code that became operational on January 1, 2021.

Among the additions to the anti-doping law are more powers to the Sports Tribunal to hear and determine cases on anti-doping rule violations by national and lower level athletes and athlete support personnel.

Also in the amendments are provisions recommending jail terms for those involved in abetting substance abuse whether it is the athletes themselves, sports officials, managers, coaches or agents.

Kenya has had a high profile list of athletes who have been in contravention of anti-doping rules, most notably, 2016 Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong and former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang.

Others are former world 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi, former Olympic 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop and 2017 London marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru, among others.

Since the new law put on notice pharmacists, managers, agents and coaches in the war against doping, Kenyan athletes are safer. Some of those who have been caught in doping have been victims of rogue third parties that took advantage of the weak laws.

Kenya is known for its prowess in athletics and protecting our athletes from rogue agents and coaches is a very important step. The athletes can thus compete without the fear of being victimized for mistakes that are not their own.

By tightening the law, coaches, agents and managers will avoid situations where they put athletes at risk. This is because for the first time, they also face jail terms for giving performance enhancement drugs to athletes.

Most of these agents care less about the athletes but the money they make from their performance. We must now work on the implementation of the new code to ensure that we get rid of such agents and coaches from our athletics fraternity.

According to ADAK, 4,200 tests have been conducted on local and international athletes since the organisation was established through the Anti-Doping Act of 2016.

If we fail to implement the new regulations, more and more athletes will be banned internationally. The lesser the number of Kenyans participating in those events, the lesser our chance of glory will be.

The enactment of the new law is just the first step. Athletes must familiarize themselves with the new tough regulations and strive to be disciplined enough to follow the rules.

@MachelWaikenda