NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s track and field athletes won’t be banned from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite serious concerns over the African country’s anti-doping program, the IAAF said Friday.
The IAAF said in a statement to The Associated Press that Kenya remains on a “monitoring list” of countries with doping problems until the end of the year. But, despite Thursday’s decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency to declare Kenya’s drug-testing agency non-compliant, the nation’s athletes can still compete through to the end of 2016.
“During the monitoring process … Kenyan athletes remain eligible to compete nationally and internationally,” the IAAF said.
That means Kenyans will be able to take part in track and field at the Rio Games in August, unless the International Olympic Committee steps in. That is considered unlikely.
The IAAF did say that WADA’s decision to suspend Kenya’s anti-doping program “is a further reflection of the IAAF’s concerns about the level of commitment to anti-doping at the national level in Kenya.”
It also said Kenya’s elite athletes were now the most tested of any country by the IAAF. Kenya could face more serious sanctions from the track body at the end of the year if its drug-testing program is still a mess.
Kenya’s anti-doping program needed to be “significantly strengthened by the end of the current year,” the IAAF said.
Fearing the possibility of an Olympic ban, Kenyan authorities were scrambling earlier Friday to sort out their problems. Parts of a new anti-doping law that was ruled inadequate by WADA — and led to the non-compliant declaration — would be hurriedly rewritten and pushed through parliament, the sports minister said.
Kenyan Sports Minister Hassan Wario said that WADA had pointed out which parts of the law needed changing. He said the problem areas can be “rewritten or rectified.”
“Meaning that as soon as parliament reviews those highlighted bits of the legislation we are fully compliant,” Wario said in a statement sent by text message to reporters. “No ban was mentioned in the body of the letter.”
That’s because WADA doesn’t have the power to enforce a ban on Kenya’s athletes, but the IAAF does, and it did with Russia after its anti-doping program was declared non-compliant following allegations of corruption and doping cover-ups last year.
WADA’s surprise decision to suspend Kenya’s anti-doping body came after the East African nation finally passed the legislation last month following two missed deadlines. Kenya celebrated the passing of the law then and hailed it a success, but WADA on Thursday described it as “a complete mess.” Late changes had been made, causing it to be rejected, WADA said.
That briefly raised the possibility that the IAAF body might use WADA’s decision to go a step further and suspend the distance-running powerhouse from international competition.
Since the 2012 London Olympics, 40 Kenyan track and field athletes have been banned for doping — a rate of about one per month — and four senior track officials are under investigation by the IAAF for potential subversion of the anti-doping process. One of those officials is a current member of the IAAF’s governing council, and another a former member.
The IAAF noted Friday that there was a possibility, albeit remote, that the IOC could take action against Kenya ahead of Rio.
“As far as Kenya’s participation is concerned across all sports at the Olympic Games in Rio, the IAAF notes that WADA has referred its decision on non-compliance to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UNESCO for their consideration and action,” the IAAF said.