Kenya government talks with athletes angry at graft, doping

Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:23am EST
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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's government met athletes to discuss their grievances on Tuesday, as runners occupied the athletics federation building for a second day, protesting against corruption and doping allegations engulfing their sport at home and abroad.

Commissioner for Sports Gordon Oluoch said he would try and resolve their complaints, but did not commit himself to any specific action, and criticized the protesters for resorting to "the laws of the jungle".

A group of mostly low-level athletes swooped on the Athletics Kenya headquarters in Nairobi on Monday morning, ordering staff to leave and barricading themselves inside. Around about 60 were still there on Tuesday, said witnesses.

The Professional Athletes' Association of Kenya (PAAK) said it feared that honest athletes could face collective punishment because of scandals about doping and media allegations that top Athletics Kenya officials had embezzled some sponsorship money.

Athletics Kenya has denied all such allegations.

Kenya, boasting some of the world's finest middle and long-distance runners, has in recent years been rocked by a spate of failed drug tests and the country's athletics federation has drawn criticism for not doing enough to tackle doping.

Allegations of corruption among Athletics Kenya chiefs tied to a Nike sponsorship deal, combined with Russia's recent ban from global athletics, have stirred fears that the East African nation could be banned from international track and field.

“We want to discuss the issues raised by the athletes to see if we can resolve the matter,” Oluoch said before a meeting at the Sport Ministry.

“We believe in the rule of the law. So even if the athletes have genuine cases, they must operate within the confines of the law, not through the law of the jungle,” said Oluoch.   Continued...

Protesting Kenyan athletes place placards behind closed gates at Riadha House the Athletic Kenya (AK) Headquarters in capital Nairobi November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Noor Khamis