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LONDON (Reuters) - Athletics' world governing IAAF has countered suggestions it was lax in investigating claims of a doping cover-up in Kenya by reporting on Tuesday that its ethics commission has been studying the allegations for nine months.
The International Association of Athletics Federations also said accusations of corruption by three senior Kenyan athletics officials were referred to its independent commission in March.
The confirmation of a long-standing investigation into Kenyan athletics comes four days after the Russian federation was suspended by the IAAF over alleged state-controlled doping.
An IAAF spokesman said it would not comment on the issues until their Kenya investigation had been concluded.
"The IAAF can confirm that an IAAF staff member referred allegations of the covering up of doping in Kenya to the IAAF Ethics Commission in the spring (March) of 2015," an IAAF spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.
Allegations had been made in a documentary by German TV station ARD that Kenyan officials had extorted money from athletes and coaches to cover up failed drug tests or in return for softer punishments.
At the weekend, Britain's Sunday Times and local Kenyan newspapers also alleged Athletics Kenya (AK) vice president David Okeyo and two other senior federation officials made personal withdrawals from an AK account in which sportswear giants Nike had deposited sponsorship money.
Kenyan police have questioned all three officials in relation to the withdrawals and Okeyo has denied the allegations, saying in a statement that there was "no embezzlement of funds" whatsoever on his part.
Asked if the IAAF had taken immediate action after the embezzlement claims, the spokesman said: "We have now checked internally in the IAAF and can confirm that an IAAF Member of Staff referred the matter to the independent Ethics Commission in the spring (March) of 2015.
"In accordance with the current procedures under the Code of Ethics, the usual practice of the Ethics Commission is not to comment until its investigations are concluded."
The spokesman also said the Federation "encourages all persons with information, especially anyone with direct evidence of these matters, to provide that information and evidence to the IAAF Ethics Commission through its website www.iaafethicscommission.org/"
Writing by Ian Chadband, editing by Ken Ferris