By Isaack Omulo
ELDORET, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya's deputy president William Ruto announced increased cash incentive for the country's Olympic medalists on Friday while promising tough punishment for dope cheats who tarnish the country's image at the Rio Games next month.
The east African nation known for middle and long distance running excellence has been under global scrutiny after more than 40 Kenyan athletes failed dope tests in the past four years, with 18 of them serving various sanctions.
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At one stage, it threatened Kenya’s participation at the Rio Olympics and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ordered that it sets rules and abides by its code.
An anti-doping legislation that is in line with the WADA code has since been signed into law, although International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) insists that Kenyan and Russian athletes who qualify for the Olympics will have to be screened afresh.
"Kenya is known worldwide for her athletics prowess and this is why we recalled Parliament from recess to pass the anti-doping legislation because we want to run clean sports," Ruto told athletes and officials at the Olympic trials on Friday.
"Anybody caught in any future doping scandal will be jailed for three years or fined 3 million Kenyan shilling ($29,721) because we want to get rid of crooked people misleading our athletes from our midst," he said.
Local athletes have often blamed the government and Athletics Kenya (AK) for doing little to educate them on the doping issues, while the latter have blamed foreign agents managing Kenyan athletes for doping.
The deputy president said the government has increased the award package for Olympics medal winners to one million Kenyan shilling for gold medals, 750,000 for silver and 500,000 for bronze.
Teams winning gold medals will be rewarded with 500,000 Kenyan shillings.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)