By Isaack Omulo
NAIROBI (Reuters) - The presence of government officials in the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) led the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to declare the country non-compliant with its code, Sports Minister Hassan Wario said on Saturday.
WADA's announcement on Thursday threw the country's participation in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics into question less than three months before the opening ceremony.
Kenya passed an act of parliament in April to criminalize doping, but WADA said the country needed to make changes to ensure compliance with the code, which sets a framework for consistent rules and policies around the world.
The WADA ruling means Kenya, for decades a leading power in middle- and long-distance running, could be in danger of exclusion from the Aug. 5-21 Olympics in Rio.
Wario, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Sport, told Reuters the sticking point was the presence of officials from the Attorney General’s office and the National Treasury on the ADAK board. He said this was a requirement under Kenyan law.
“They (WADA) are pointing at the legal issues. We had seven stages to cover. We covered the six very well, which included policy and rules and regulations. But they raised questions on legal elements, that is the act,” Wario said.
“They highlighted some parts of the act and, based on that, they said unless we get it back exactly the way they sent it to us, we will not be declared compliant.”
Wario said he was leaving for Canada later on Saturday for a meeting with WADA after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta asked him and Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed to travel there to resolve the issue.
“We are just going to meet with them and listen to their sentiments and come and implement them because what is important now is not arguing with them or them with us," he said.
"What is important is to rectify whatever mistakes there are and take it through parliament and get the compliance and move on."
WADA's "non-compliance" announcement led to Kenyatta summoning leading government officials to his State House residency to explain the situation after Parliament passed the Anti-Doping law last month to beat WADA's May 2 deadline.
Kenya failed to meet February and April deadlines.
Kenya's governing athletics body, Athletics Kenya, has come under intense scrutiny in recent years over the state of its drug testing and bureaucracy amid allegations of corruption.
Forty Kenyan runners have been found guilty of doping since 2012 and 18 are currently suspended according to the world governing International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The IAAF said on Friday that WADA's action "is a further reflection of the IAAF’s concerns about the level of commitment to anti-doping at the national level in Kenya."
The IAAF, which in November suspended Russia from international athletics because of widespread drug cheating, said Kenyan athletes were still eligible to compete nationally and internationally.
It said Kenya's participation in Rio was in the hands of the International Olympic Committee.
(Editing by George Obulutsa and Ken Ferris)