By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is rooting for the implementation of stiffer penalties including jail sentences and dismissal from formal employment to athletes who fail doping tests.
Athletics Kenya (AK) President Jack Tuwei has petitioned the country's parliament to pass a law that will see any drug cheats go to prison and lose their other employment with Kenyan companies in what is seen as the bravest fight against the vice.
Speaking in Nairobi on Friday, Tuwei, who appeared before a parliamentary sports committee at the National Assembly, says banning the athletes alone was not enough punishment.
"Criminalize doping in the country," Tuwei told Members of Parliament. "The government should not employ any athlete who has been banned for doping offense because it is a criminal act."
Kenyan laws have imposed a fine of only 1,000 U.S. dollars for anyone found cheating, with a possible jail term for offenders. But the country's track and field body feels such a punishment is too lenient and must be revised.
Kenya and Ethiopia head a list of nations categorized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as being the most at risk of having its athletes engage in doping. They are joined by Belarus and Ukraine.
Athletes from these Federations selected to compete in major events will have to undergo at least three out-of-competition doping tests in the ten months before a World Championships or Olympic Games.
Currently, over 50 athletes from Kenya have been reprimanded and are serving their ban notice for cheating, with the most famous being former three-time Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo and Jemimah Sumgong, winner of the Marathon gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Former world 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop is also on the list, but has appealed the verdict saying he was not given a hearing. His case is yet to be settled.
Others include world 800m bronze medalist Kipyegon Bett, who tested positive for the banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO) in August.
This year alone, those who have been nabbed include Milan Marathon champion Lucy Kabuu, and Athens Marathon winner Samuel Kalalei.
Ukraine and Belarus too have long been dogged by accusations of widespread doping, while in Ethiopia, doping products are reportedly easily available in the capital Addis Ababa.
Tuwei said Athletics Kenya will be taking the war against doping a notch higher by intensifying the sensitization program down to grassroots level.
"The federation has been involved in anti-doping education activities throughout the year to educate athletes, coaches, officials and all athlete support personnel on the dangers of doping. We have introduced Anti-doping Day which we will celebrate on November 9 in Elgeyo Markwet," said Tuwei.