Athletics Athletics

Kenya under fire as Coe faces criticism

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DAVID OKEYO

Athletics Kenya vice president in charge of competition David Okeyo. PHOTO FILE/ Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, November 15 – The investigations into grand corruption in covering up doping cases has snared current and past top Athletics Kenya (AK) officials according to claims in British publication, Sunday Times.

Detectives questioned three of Kenya’s most senior athletics officials in April over claims that they pocketed large sums of sponsorship money given to AK multinational sports giant, Nike.

A case file on the alleged corruption was handed to Kenya’s Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions.

According to the British national newspaper, an investigation by The Sunday Times and the German broadcaster ARD/WDR has uncovered a sworn affidavit in which a whistle blower claimed that the officials siphoned close to Sh71,785,000.00 (USD700,000) out of the federation’s bank account, most of it in cash. He says he reported his concerns to the police.

The newspaper claims to have seen bank statements and emails that the whistle blower says support his allegations.

The disclosure that Nike is linked to a police corruption inquiry will be particularly embarrassing to IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, who is already under pressure to stand down from his lucrative role as an ambassador for the company.

The Sunday Times yesterday made the IAAF aware that one of the Kenyan officials allegedly involved in the corruption inquiry sits on its governing council, which on Friday voted to suspend Russia from all international athletics competition.

A spokesman for the IAAF said its ethics commission had immediately been alerted and 200 new appointments to its committees would now be delayed until enhanced vetting procedures could be put in place.

Coe was last week forced to defend himself against accusations of incompetence after he said he was completely unaware of alleged corruption within the IAAF despite a World Anti-Doping Agency commission finding there was “widespread inaction” against drug cheats who had effectively “sabotaged” the London 2012 Olympics.

A French criminal investigation is continuing into whether Coe’s predecessor, Lamine Diack, accepted Sh102.55m (USD1m) bung in return for covering up the positive doping tests of Russian athletes in the run-up to the London games.

Coe insisted on Friday that the ban on Russia would not be lifted until it introduced big reforms. However, Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister, yesterday claimed his country could return to competition as early next year.

“It is a predictable and understandable decision,” he said. “I think we can do all the work in two to three months.”

He added: “What will happen? Yes, nothing will happen. Athletics will develop, the guys will train. They will miss maybe one tournament.”

Confirmation that the corruption allegations in athletics have now spread beyond Russia’s borders is a body blow to the IAAF and Coe.

Earlier this year detectives interviewed Isaiah Kiplagat, chairman of AK, David Okeyo, AK’s vice-president and former secretary-general, and Joseph Kinyua, its former treasurer, as part of an ongoing corruption inquiry. Okeyo is a member of the IAAF’s governing council.

Kinyua confirmed they had been interviewed by detectives in Nairobi about -allegations that he had pocketed money from AK’s deal with Nike. All three deny any wrongdoing.

Separately, this newspaper and ARD/WDR have seen a sworn affidavit, dated June 2012, by Matthews Kiprono Kiptum, a former AK staff member. It details how Nike was required to renegotiate its contract to ensure its “swoosh” logo remained on the Kenya team kit.

Kiptum claims the officials siphoned Nike payments from the federation’s account and he became so worried about AK’s financial dealings that he challenged Kiplagat. “I tried to approach chairman Kiplagat to raise my concerns on what I saw as . . . a deception of the people of Kenya,” the affidavit states. “The chairman, however, did not want to hear me out and the workplace soon became very hostile to me.”

His attempt to raise his concerns with Nike is also alleged to have been rebuffed.

Last week, a spokesman for Nike said the firm conducted itself with “integrity” and its “expectation and understanding” of the AK sponsorship deal was that the funds would be “used to support and service the teams and athletes”. He added: “We are co-operating with the local authorities in their investigation.”

Ndegwa Muhoro, head of the Kenyan police’s criminal investigation department, said: “It’s upon the prosecutor to decide the way forward. If he says we arrest and charge, we will do it but if he recommends a further probe, we are ready. We are waiting.”

According to Kiptum’s affidavit, his suspicions were aroused during the renegotiation of AK’s and Nike’s multimillion-pound sponsorship kit deal in 2003. He claims to have seen an email from a Nike official to Kiplagat explaining how the contract would include an “honoraria fee” to AK, which was “to be shared between the chairman, the secretary-general and the treasurer in the amounts of Sh2, 973,950.00 (USD 29,000), Sh1, 845,900.00 (USD18, 000) and Sh1, 845,900.00 (USD18, 000) respectively”.

-Adopted from Sunday Times

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