To avoid a ban on its athletes from participating in the upcoming Rio Olympics, Kenya is pushing through changes to its anti-doping law to become compliant with World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) requirements.
Changes approved by the Kenyan parliament in April were declared inconsistent and non-compliant by Wada, forcing parliament to immediately make further changes to its anti-doping law. The approved legislation included new criminal laws to curb doping, made doping an offence punishable by imprisonment, and proposed setting up of a national testing authority.
Wada had demanded that Kenyan authorities amend the country's anti-doping laws after many of its athletes were found involved in drug scandals in the past few years. More than 40 athletes from Kenya have failed drugs tests since 2011 and as of January 2016, 18 athletes have been suspended on doping charges. The most popular among these is Rita Jeptoo, who won the Boston and Chicago marathons.
A ban on Kenyan athletes for failing drugs tests would mean the country could miss out on many medals at the 2016 Olympic Games scheduled in Rio de Janeiro in August. The country topped the medals tally at the 2015 World Athletics Championships held in Beijing winning seven gold. The country does not want to miss out on a similar feat at the 2016 Olympics.
A special sitting of MPs was called on Thursday to push through new changes after the previous ones were rejected by Wada on 12 May. The amended legislation would be required to be approved by the Kenyan Senate before being signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The BBC quoted opposition MP Chris Wamalwa as telling parliament that sports was "very critical" to Kenya and that "athletes have added a lot of value" to the country in terms of marketing.
However, the spate of doping scandals sullied the country's and its athletes' reputation. Former Wada president Dick Pound said in November 2015 that it was "pretty clear that there are a lot of performance-enhancing drugs being used" in Kenya.