- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenya appears likely to avoid sanctions by the World Anti-Doping Agency after its parliament finally passed a law criminalizing doping Tuesday.

Sports minister Hassan Wario announced that the anti-doping bill - which had been held up for months - had been approved by lawmakers. It now only needs to be signed by the president to be adopted as law, appeasing WADA.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said previously that he will sign the legislation, and personally drove the bill through parliament with Kenya’s sports reputation on the line. Presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu confirmed Tuesday that the president would approve the law.

The anti-doping law is one of the things Kenya needs to have in place by a final May 2 deadline to avoid being declared non-compliant with WADA’s global code. It calls for prison sentences in some cases for using or providing performance-enhancing drugs.

The East African country, home to the world’s top distance runners, was also told by WADA to set up and properly fund a national anti-doping agency. The doping legislation was the most problematic of the reforms, though, and Kenya missed deadlines in February and earlier this month because of delays in parliament approving the law.

WADA demanded Kenya strengthen its overall anti-doping program after a surge in doping cases, and allegations of extortion and cover-ups by top track federation officials. Forty Kenyans have been banned for doping since the 2012 Olympics in London, and WADA’s compliance committee said it would recommend to the agency’s board that Kenya be declared non-compliant if the improvements weren’t made by May 2.

Although a declaration of non-compliance by WADA would not immediately affect Kenyan athletes, IAAF President Sebastian Coe has said the track and field governing body would be willing to ban Kenyans from international competitions if the country consistently failed to comply with WADA regulations.

A ban now would likely put Kenya’s athletes, including major stars like reigning 800-meter Olympic champion David Rudisha, out of the Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Kenyan sports minister Wario said that President Kenyatta was expected to sign off on the doping legislation by the end of this week.

“Today is a great day,” Wario said. “The anti-doping bill has been passed. Olympics here we come.”

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