New allegations of doping cover-ups in Kenya

AP News
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Posted: Nov 15, 2015 3:48 PM
New allegations of doping cover-ups in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan athletics faced more allegations Sunday as a coach claimed three marathon runners paid bribes to the national track federation in exchange for lenient doping bans.

Paul Simbolei told The Associated Press he had informed police about the bribes and that he has been receiving threats since going to authorities with the allegations.

In a separate case, the IAAF said it was investigating allegations that a Kenyan athletics official who sits on the governing body's decision-making council embezzled sponsorship money.

Both cases add to the scrutiny on athletics in Kenya, a country that was already facing doping allegations similar to those directed at Russia, which was banned from international track and field competitions over what a report claimed was systematic state-sponsored doping.

Simbolei, a coach in the famous high-altitude training town of Iten, declined to name the runners involved but will meet police for a formal interview. Since he first made the allegations, he had avoided answering some phone calls out of fear, he said.

His comments followed a report published by British newspaper The Sunday Times, in which Simbolei said he had been told by police that his life could be in danger after he made allegations of a larger doping cover-up in Kenya in a previous interview with German broadcaster ARD.

"I told (police) everything I knew," the newspaper quoted Simbolei as saying. "I told them officials approach athletes, or their coaches, and demand cash by saying, 'you know your athlete uses drugs'."

Simbolei claimed Kenyan track officials ask for a share in race winnings, "or else they will expose you for cheating.

One police officer warned him "to be careful with this information," said Simbolei. "Another officer told me that the matter was extremely serious and could cost people their jobs. He also said it could cost me my life to make such claims. I insisted that it was all the truth."

The report did not name any athletes or officials.

The IAAF case centered around council member David Okeyo, one of three track officials under investigation in Kenya for embezzling around $700,000, some of it sponsorship money from Nike, from the Kenyan athletics federation's accounts. Most of the money was withdrawn in cash, according to the allegations.

"The IAAF was not aware of the investigation into Mr. Okeyo in Kenya and the information has immediately been passed on to the independent IAAF Ethics Commission," a spokesman for the IAAF said in an email to The AP.

Okeyo, who is also a vice president of Athletics Kenya, was accused alongside AK President Isaiah Kiplagat and Joseph Kinyua, the former federation treasurer. Kiplagat is a former IAAF council member and was a candidate for an IAAF vice president position in elections earlier this year.

Kenyan prosecutors are considering whether to lay criminal charges against the three, director of public prosecutions Keriako Tobiko said.

The investigations relating to Okeyo and Kiplagat — some of which date back years — bring more allegations of wrongdoing into the heart of the world body following revelations that ex-IAAF president Lamine Diack is under criminal investigation in France for taking bribes to cover up Russian doping.

Okeyo said that he had cooperated with Kenyan police and initially declined to comment further. In a later statement, he said: "I welcome investigations by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics Committee on allegations that in the course of discharging my duties as the then Secretary General of Athletics Kenya (AK), I was involved in embezzling of monies in the federation."

A series of damning revelations had already left the IAAF reeling under new president Sebastian Coe, beginning with news that Diack, Coe's predecessor as head of the sport, was under criminal investigation. Following a World Anti-Doping Agency report of a vast, state-sponsored cover-up, Russia was suspended on Friday in a vote of the IAAF's decision-making council.

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AP writer Mutwiri Mutuota contributed to this report. Imray reported from Somerset West, South Africa.

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Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP