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Ruto vows to criminalize doping

01 September 2015, 18:57

Nairobi - Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto on Tuesday announced plans to criminalise doping, after two of the east African nation's athletes were banned after positive tests during the Beijing world athletics championships.

The warning came as Kenya's triumphant world championship athletes were given a rousing welcome home, with thousands of supporters and top officials out in force for the homecoming.

The Kenyan team topped the medals table for the first time since the championships started in 1983, taking seven golds, six silvers and three bronze medals.

But the runaway success was punctured by hard questions after two of their athletes -- Koki Manunga and Joyce Zakary -- became the tournament's first to fail drugs tests.

"At the executive level, we have been seized with this matter of doping. As a government this is a matter we are taking very seriously," Ruto told reporters.

"We will be discussing this matter in the cabinet shortly. We want to put into place measures to elevate the (Kenyan) anti-doping agency and give it a legal framework so that it is backed by law to make it an offence," he said.

The deputy president unveiled plans to also strike off any doctor found to be involved in administering performance-enhancing drugs, and also tackle any dishonest coaches and agents.

"We are clear in our mind that this must be done so that we can eliminate the threat of doping in our sport," he said. "We have natural talent in Kenya. They don't have be aided by drugs."

Ruto nevertheless praised the medal winners as "heroes" who had made the country "proud".

"Every village, every town and every corner of Kenya is celebrating our win and our success. We are not the biggest country in the world nor the strongest country but we are simply the best," he said, before hosting the team for breakfast at his residence.

Kenya was rocked this year when marathon star Rita Jeptoo was banned for two years after being caught doping with the banned blood-boosting hormone EPO, the same drug that was part of the cocktail used by Tour de France cheat Lance Armstrong.

Jeptoo is the biggest name in Kenyan sports ever to have been caught, and the bust has been a major trauma for a country that idolises its medal-winning and record-breaking runners.

Several top athletes -- including top marathoner Wilson Kipsang and 800m track star David Rudisha -- have also been pushing for tougher sanctions, complaining that they were at risk of being tarred with the same brush as the dopers.

Ruto's promise of government action was welcomed by Kenya's leading anti-doping campaigner, the leading sports scientist and lawyer Moni Wekesa, although he complained that the matter was only now being taken seriously.

"It is unfortunate we have been slow on this," Wekesa said.

A push to criminalise doping was started earlier this year by Kenyan politician Wesley Korir, who is also a former Boston marathon winner.

"The Honourable Wesley Korir was on the right track in his push for the introduction of a bill to criminalise doping in the country," Wekesa said.

"We need to synergise our efforts to come up with an anti-doping law."

Kenya's sport bosses, including Athletics Kenya, have also been accused of inaction, despite a string of positive tests in recent years.

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