Athletics Athletics

MPs demand probe into Team Kenya’s mismanagement in Rio

Deputy President William Ruto in the morning run with Team Kenya athletes in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO/DPPS
Deputy President William Ruto in the morning run with Team Kenya athletes in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO/DPPS

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 23 – Members of the National Assembly have called for an inquiry into the mismanagement of Team Kenya at the just concluded Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The legislators who suspended Tuesday’s afternoon sitting spent much of the hour – which had been allotted to commend the athletes for their display which saw Kenya ranked 15th overall and top in Africa with a total of 13 medals, six silver, six gold and one bronze – on the apparent mismanagement of the team that also attracted the interest of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a statement released on Monday, welcoming the team back to the country, President Kenyatta warned that “questions must be answered” over the reports of the team’s mismanagement.

Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda) kicked off the debate with the proposal to set up a revolving athletes reward scheme for medallists in international games such as the Olympics and World Championships.

“In subsequent budgets and every Olympics year, this House should devote a generous budget to guarantee generous cash rewards to our athletes who win medals at the international stage. As a House, we must say never again, should we ever allow a gold medal winner at the Olympics to live and die in poverty like the fate that befell our pioneer gold medallist Naphtali Temu who unfortunately despite, being a the first Kenyan to win a golden medal at the Olympics, died an extremely poor man at the General Ward at the Kenyatta National Hospital,” he said.

Gumbo then tore into the management of the National Olympics Committee of Kenya for its poor handling of the team in Rio.

“It is a pity that as our athletes toil to place Kenyan on top of the world map, some greedy, selfish individuals who only see their exploits as opportunities for self gain and plunder. This is why as a House we must condemn this extreme lethargy, incompetence and appalling ineptitude and corruption perpetuated by our athletics managers and it should be severely punished,” said the Rarieda MP.

2000 Boston Marathon Champion Elijah Lagat (Emgwen) also took issue with the management of the team and also called for a change of guard at the outfit currently run by one of Kenya’s pioneer distance runners Kipchoge Keino.

Lagat regretted that not much had changed in the management style of the team between the time he hang his spikes, noting that the issue of official training and racing kits disappearing from camp also happened during his day.

He went on to narrate how he had to run in an oversize pair of short during the 2000 Olympics Marathon which was held in Sydney, Australia.

In addition, the former marathoner said he relates with athletes who have complained that some officials at the games sold kits donated by sportswear manufacturer Nike and which were meant for their training, competition and relaxation.

Moses Cheboi (Kuresoi North) came to the defence of the NOCK chief and Kenya’s chef de mission (head of delegation) Stephen Soi.

“Lets us not dwell too much in the failings of one or two officials, let us serve ourselves in the beauty of the golds that we managed to get from the Olympics, which is the highest, the only time that we were closest to this was in 1988, when we got five gold medals,” he said.

But MPs Silverse Anami (Shinyalu), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and Agostino Neto (Ndhiwa) shifted gear and lay the blame firmly at the door of the Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario who has taken much of the flak for the mess ranging from poor travel arrangements to questions over the identity of some of those listed in the delegation.

The MPs faulted Wario for failing to take control of the situation which has also exposed allegations that some officials gave air tickets, accommodation and accreditation to joyriders instead of athletes and coaches.

The embattled CS, who flew back from Rio last Saturday told the media that NOCK officials, who are squarely to blame for the mismanagement of the team, were living large in Brazil and are a law unto themselves.

MPs called on the House Labour and Social Welfare Committee which also travelled with the team to the games, to expedite the tabling of its report on the Olympics tour in the House.

The outing has been tainted by claims of mismanagement of the team and inadequacy of training and racing kits.

Kenya was faced with an international farce in Rio after the expulsion of its track coach Major (Rtd) Michael Rotich, who was accused of offering to help foreign athletics drugs cheat to evade doping tests at a fee, and sprint coach John Anzrah for using an athlete’s accreditation to access the Olympic Village for a meal.

Sprinter Carvin Nkanata was denied entry into the Olympic village due to lack of an accreditation card as well as a Kenyan passport and had to travel back to his base in the US. However, after appealing, the 200m athlete travelled back to Rio on the day of his race and finished last in his heat.

Prior to the team’s travel to Rio, athletes almost refused to board the plane with javelin thrower Julius Yego missing a ticket. Earlier, Yego who went on to win Silver in Rio had also lamented that his coach would be leaving Rio before he competes due to a travel itinerary issued by the NOCK.

On Sunday evening, marathoner Wesley Korir, also the Cherangany Member of Parliament expressed his disgust of failing to finish the marathon race due to a stomach problem, saying there was a mix up during the 30km water point when he was handed compatriot Stanley Biwott’s endurance drink instead of his by Kenyan officials.

-By Laban Wanambisi-