Uganda, an emerging athletics power that has been trying to take on traditional regional rivals Kenya and Ethiopia, has been hit after the alleged athletics sex abuse scandal emerged last year.
It broke after the country’s star distance runner and Commonwealth gold medallist Moses Kipsiro made public complaints from his female teammates against Peter Wemali, until recently the head coach of a police camp in eastern Uganda.
Wemali was taken into custody Thursday over the alleged rape and defilement of three female runners aged 15, 16 and 17 between 2013 and 2014, the Daily Monitor newspaper reported.
It said the former coach had been arrested after the girls underwent medical examinations.
“He is the prime suspect,” said local police commander James Ruhweza from Uganda’s eastern Sipi district, according to the newspaper.
Last year, female junior national team runners accused him of sexually harassing them during a training camp. Wemali was said to have advised them to get pregnant and then abort so they could run better.
Wemali, who has also been accused of practising witchcraft, was cleared of any wrongdoing. The Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) however, have been accused by some female Ugandan MPs of dragging their feet or even trying to cover up the scandal.
Earlier this month they told Parliament the scandal was a “national shame” and demanded an investigation into it.
Ruhweza said police were looking for another young girl who Wemali is accused of making pregnant before forcing her to have an abortion.
Earlier this week Stephen Kiprotich, Uganda’s Olympic and world marathon champion, told the Monitor that Wemali was a “wrong character” who had “ruined” the career of one promising young female runner, and turned another into his wife.
“These officials totally have no respect for athletes,” he said, accusing the UAF of being “insensitive” and “shielding” Wemali.
Earlier this month, Kipsiro revealed he may have to flee Uganda after receiving death threats which he said stemmed from the allegations he raised against the coach.