ITEN, Kenya (Reuters) - Olympic and double world 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop has joined a growing number of Kenyan athletes and officials demanding tougher action against doping after dozens of positive cases in Kenya in the past two years.
Government officials have blamed the rising number of cases on foreign agents. Athletics Kenya (AK) has also been accused of not doing enough to educate its sportsmen and women properly.
"Doping is a serious matter. It needs to be tackled hard," Kiprop, 25, said in Iten, a hill town in west Kenya that is the training heartland for Kenya's distance runners.
"My proposal is if an athlete is found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs to gain something, such an athlete is an offender and needs to be punished by law and go to prison as a lesson for those who want to do the same," he said.
"This is about individual athletes and they must be held accountable for their actions," said Kiprop.
In December, Kenyan Rita Jeptoo, winner of the Boston and Chicago marathons for the last two years, tested positive for a banned substance in a B sample taken after she failed an out-of-competition check in September.
AK President Isaiah Kiplagat told a cross country meeting in the Kenyan town of Narok on Saturday that cheats risked four-year bans but said doping was not as bad as some suggested.
AK Deputy President Paul Mutwii, however, said the athletics body was not doing enough to stamp out the problem.
“Like many AK members know, doping is rampant and AK has been doing little. We are only waking up now because of pressure from some members, professional athletes and the media,” he said.
President of National Olympic Committee of Kenya Kipchoge Keino said he wanted a meeting with Sports Minister Hassan Wario and members of parliament on new legislation that could include prison terms for coaches or agents who encouraged the drugs use.
"The reputation of our sportsmen and women has been tainted beyond any imagination," Keino, the gold medallist in the 1968 Olympic 1,500m and 1972 Olympic 3,000m steeplechase, said in a New Year message.
“Kenya is risking sanctions from international competition because international organisations think we are not addressing the problem in line with world best practice,” he said.
(Editing by Edmund Blair)