By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya wants two more months to show the global anti-doping agency it has cleaned up its athletics, hoping to avoid the risk of being barred from this year's Olympic Games, its sports minister said on Friday.
Kenya, a world beater in long-distance running, missed a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) deadline last week to implement new regulations in a country where some 40 athletes have been banned for doping in the last three years.
Sports Minister Hassan Wario said he was confident WADA would agree a two-month extension to enable Kenya to pass legislation and launch a fully operational anti-doping agency.
"Have we had anything from WADA? We haven't. But normally there is a window of two months' extension, which we hope to capitalize on once we get it," Wario told a news conference in Nairobi.
A top Kenyan athletics official said on Thursday that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), itself under pressure to get tougher on doping, was planning to ban Kenya from the Rio Games so "the world will understand how serious they are".
The IAAF could enact a ban if WADA declared Kenya Non-compliant with its rules.
WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said the organization's Independent Compliance Review Committee was due to make recommendations on Kenya in the coming days.
“We can’t confirm a timeline yet,” he said.
“We required a number of assurances from Kenya in relation to the establishment of their anti-doping agency. These were predominantly to do with the need for them to put in place the legislation and rules so that the agency can be established.”
Sports Minister Wario said it would have been impossible to get legislation passed in time for the original WADA deadline.
"It was very clear that we were not going to make the Feb. 11 deadline because the law and the policy, as you know, in this country take a longer time."
But two months would be enough to put things in order, he said, including a law that would set heavy fines and at least three years in jail for those found guilty of doping.
"Are we serious about dealing with doping matters? We are extremely committed and open about dealing with doping and dopers," Wario said.
"Kenya is keen on ensuring the whoever wins does so in a clean and fair manner."
(Additional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)