The Magogo Bill is casual on doping; Uganda needs a special law for that

IVAN OJAKOL 

What you need to know:

The Government of Uganda’s current rationalization and merging of government agencies’ policy might not support the establishment of a separate and independent anti-doping body, but anti-doping unfortunately cannot be regulated without such a technical body under a special legal framework. 

Doping has over the years become central to sport and has led to ignominious interruptions or even ends to the sporting careers of previous sporting icons like Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, Dwain Chambers, and Lance Armstrong.

It is so serious and speaks to the need to protect the integrity of sports that the United Nations chipped in and came up with an international instrument, “The International Convention against Doping in Sports” concluded under the auspices of the United Nations Educational. Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The National Sports Bill, 2021, “Magogo Bill” attempts though in a casual manner to regulate doping. Clause 56 of The Bill, bars the use of substances banned by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), stipulating that as an offence that carries a maximum punishment of five years.

According to clause 63 of the Bill, the Minister of Sports is given the power to establish what is termed an “Anti-doping Committee” tasked with overseeing this area in Ugandan sports. Notwithstanding the fact that further under clause 71 of the Bill, the Minister of Sports is given the latitude to further make Regulations governing anti-doping at a later time, that in this columnist’s view is not sufficient.

The Kenyan Sports Act, 2013 has similar provisions-also deferring to the Minister to make Regulations governing doping. This seems to have been overtaken by events when in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, 2016, there seemed to be a ban hovering over Kenya’s participation in those Olympics after a spate of doping issues plagued Kenyan athletics.

WADA directed that the Uhuru Kenyatta administration then shows its commitment towards fighting the vice by enacting a bespoke law to address the same. This led to the Kenyan Anti-doping Act, 2016 which among other technical anti-doping provisions established the Anti-doping Agency of Kenya. This law was even amended in 2021 to strengthen it.

One may argue that Kenya is a bigger athletics nation and perhaps has the highest number of anti-doping bans on the African continent hence the need for the law, which law by the way has not deterred doping cases from there.

Kenya remains a high-risk nation when it comes to athletics integrity. The area has developed so fast in Kenya that their jurisprudence gave us a positive development recently with sprinter, Mark Otieno proving that the banned substance that appeared in his samples resulted from contaminated supplements and that he had no intention of using the prohibited substances.

This made him the first Kenyan athlete to prove contamination, a defense that has often been raised but has previously come up short.

However, the Kenyan law has come under criticism internationally and from WADA itself that its imposition of criminal penalties over doping offences goes against sports law, and attempts to impose stronger criminal penalties under the Kenyan Anti-doping legal regime have been resisted in that regard. The Magogo Bill’s criminal penalties should be revised accordingly.

Uganda might still be low risk, but with the country’s rising superiority over long-distance athletics and its attempts to dethrone the traditional powerhouses as exemplified by Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo’s recent exploits or even Stephen Kiprotich and Moses Kipsiro before them, bespoke anti-doping legislation might be necessary. Of course, the politics around sports is another possible motivation for enacting this law.

The Government of Uganda’s current rationalization and merging of government agencies’ policy might not support the establishment of a separate and independent anti-doping body, but anti-doping unfortunately cannot be regulated without such a technical body under a special legal framework.

Doping, a highly specialized, technical area should be taken out of the Magogo Bill. This is also important as far as developing capacity regarding this is concerned. Lumping it up with other sports issues could have this capacity requirement overlooked.

An Act of Parliament, not Regulations made by a Minister is what should be the right approach towards doping if we have decided to legislate this too.

Ojakol is a Sports Lawyer, Partner at Matrix Advocates

and Law Lecturer at IUEA

Contacts:0787261019/0742116305

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.