Kenyan athletes protest against doping, graft in national body

Nairobi, Nov 23 (IANS) Kenyan athletes staged a demonstration outside the Athletics Kenya office here on Monday, demanding the resignation of their track and field body officials over alleged graft and doping cover-ups.

The sit-in comes just days after Athletics Kenya (AK) top officials were accused of abetting doping and covering up results of suspected cheats by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and local coaches, reports Xinhua.

Outgoing president Isaiah Kiplagat and his vice-president David Okeyo have also been accused of taking bribes to endorse contract signing with sports apparel manufacturer Nike.

“We are taking united action to bring sanity to AK management and leadership,” the protesting athletes under the umbrella body Professional Athletes’ Association of Kenya (PAAK) said in a joint statement.

PAAK said documents in their possession indicate that Kenyan officials received bribes in signing Nike sponsorship which saw Kenya drop their earlier quest to take over Chinese firm Li Ning.

In 2010, AK had agreed with Pamodzi Sports Marketing, a company International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had agreed to market the sport in Africa and Asia to sign with Beijing-based Li Ning, but manoeuvres by Kenyan government and sports administrators led to a still birth to the deal.

Instead, AK used the negotiations with Li Ning to improve their bargain and renew their contract with Nike. Now the athletes are concerned the same documents can be used by IAAF to ban Kenya.

PAAK chairman Wilson Kipsang confirmed that the demonstration was indeed being done by athletes based here.

“The writing is on the wall and we have decided to take the matter right to the door step of our association. We are tired and face the risk of being banned. We must act now,” he said.

The athletes carried placard written on “corrupt go home” and “your time is over”, which were targeting Kiplagat, who has said he still can remain in office until 2017.

The athletes laid siege on their AK headquarters for better part of the day, saying the officials were also abetting doping, which has seen over 40 athletes banned from Kenya in the last two years. AK has allocated only $2,000 for anti-doping campaigns, mainly going to sensitisation, which athletes believe is too little.

It takes about $500 to do one test and athletes want AK to supplement out-of-competition tests done by IAAF and WADA.

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