Kenya has missed a deadline to prove to the World Anti-Doping Agency it is tackling cheating in athletics.
It comes after a spate of positive drugs tests among the country’s athletes and fresh allegations of corruption.
Kenya has not been able to provide the assurances that the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is seeking and will be placed on a ‘watch-list’ of nations at risk of breaching the agency’s code.
The East African country, whose athletes are dominant in distance running, will be given two months to bring in new legislation and funding, or automatically be declared non-compliant with Wada.
That could mean a possible ban from the Olympics, which take place later this year in Brazil, and other major events.
A Wada statement said while “some progress has been made” with the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya, there is “still a lot of work required”.
It said that, following a series of questions to Kenyan authorities, it had not received the assurances it needed.
“This is now a matter for our independent compliance process,” it said.
How bad is it?
Kenya topped the medal table at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing with seven gold medals.
But the country has become mired in doping and bribery allegations.
Since 2011, more than 40 of its athletes have failed drugs tests:
- As of January 2016, 18 Kenyan athletes were suspended for doping;
- Those 18 athletes are serving bans totalling 55 years;
- The best known is Rita Jeptoo, who has won the Boston and Chicago marathons;
- Lilian Moraa Mariita was given the longest ban – eight years for taking steroids.
Three senior officials at governing body Kenya Athletics have also been suspended following accusations they were involved in corruption linked to Doha’s successful bid for the 2019 World Championships.
Both officials, and the Qatar campaign team, deny any wrongdoing.
The Kenyan government told the BBC it was taking the threat of doping “very seriously” and said its newly established national anti-doping organisation would soon be operational.
Why has Wada take action now?
For several months, Wada has been trying to persuade Kenya to set up an effective national agency so more drug tests can be conducted, but progress has been slow.
Legislation has yet to be passed by the Kenyan parliament and proposed annual funding of 500m Kenyan shillings (£3.5m) is still to be released.
A taskforce met with Kenyan officials in Nairobi last week and asked for certain assurances by Thursday.
But Kenya has now been referred to Wada’s compliance committee.
David Howman, Wada’s director general, said “a fully functional” anti-doping agency is “a vital step for a country of Kenya’s sporting stature” if it is to “effectively protect clean athletes”.
He said it must be established “at the earliest opportunity”.
How has Kenya reacted?
Russian athletes are already banned from international competition after the country was accused of state-sponsored doping.
It must prove it is Wada-compliant before sanctions are lifted.
Kip Keino, head of Kenya’s Olympic Committee, said his country was addressing the concerns levelled against them action but admitted time was “running out”.
He added: “There is a change. The government is committed. We saw what happened in other countries like Russia and we don’t want that.”
The two-time Olympic gold medallist said a ban would be “a grave loss” and insisted Kenya “wants to clean its house”.
Any other issues?
This week, the IAAF expanded an ongoing investigation after fresh allegations from two suspended athletes that the chief executive of Kenya Athletics asked for money in exchange for more lenient punishments.
Isaac Mwangi has denied any wrongdoing, but Wada says it is “most disturbed” by the claims.
The BBC has obtained previously unseen, secretly filmed footage of a Kenyan athlete receiving an injection from an unnamed doctor.
The substance cannot be verified but the athlete, who did not want to be identified, said it was a banned substance and that doping was common.
Another athlete claimed the governing body had given him a two-year suspension because he was unable to pay it 500,000 Kenyan shillings (£3,350) to cover up a failed drugs test.
Kenya Athletics said it could not comment on the claims because of ongoing investigations but asked anyone with evidence to come forward.
How does Kenya do testing?
With no operational anti-doping agency of its own, testing in Kenya is conducted by a regional anti-doping organisation on Wada’s behalf.
But, with limited resources, it was able to carry out just 40 drugs tests in the country in 2015.
There is no Wada-accredited laboratory in Kenya and the regional agency does not have the facilities to carry out blood tests.
All urine samples have to be tested in South Africa.
Over the past two years, the IAAF has conducted 112 blood tests on Kenyan athletes in the country.
A total of 54 athletes were tested, but the samples have to be taken to Europe.
The world governing body is also trying to raise funding for an approved laboratory to be established in Nairobi.
So what now?
This week, senior Kenyan sports officials held last-ditch talks and agreed draft legislation that would enable its anti-doping agency to become operational.
“We are very serious,” said cabinet secretary Hassan Wario. “We have clamped down. We can’t compare to Russia at all.
“The government knows the importance of athletics to this nation. It’s our number one brand and we can’t spoil that.”
Wario insisted the country’s president was behind plans to clean up the sport, adding: “The athletes you see from now on will be clean.”
In a country where resources are limited, the temptation to take short cuts is obvious and the cost of educating and testing athletes a major challenge.
But, at a time when sporting integrity is under scrutiny like never before, Kenya is in a race against time to prove it wins clean.