August 30, 2018 / 9:44 AM / 20 days ago

Kenya's Okeyo banned for life for taking Nike money

LONDON (Reuters) - Former senior Kenyan athletics official David Okeyo has been banned from the sport for life and fined $50,000 (38,426.07 pounds) after being found guilty of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of sponsorship payments for his personal use.

Okeyo, a former Secretary-General and Vice President of Athletics Kenya (AK) as well as a member of the IAAF Council, and Joseph Kinyua, a former Treasurer of Athletics Kenya, were investigated by the sport’s ethics board in relation to payments made by U.S. sportswear company Nike between 2003 and 2015.

In a 74-page judgement released on Thursday, the Board found that on many occasions Okeyo did not disclose to AK the withdrawals of the Nike money he made from AK bank accounts and he could also not show any evidence of what the money had been used for.

He was thus found to have breached the ethics code on 10 occasions after taking sponsorship money that “could have been better directed to support the development of the sport of athletics in Kenya” and expelled him from his position on the IAAF Council.

He was ordered to pay the $50,000 fine to AK.

Kinyua was found by the board to have “engaged in similar conduct” but as he was not an IAAF official at the time, it was deemed that he was not bound by the ethics rules in place at the time and hence he escaped sanction.

The two men, along with former AK President Isaiah Kiplagat, were provisionally suspended at the end of 2015. Kiplagat has since died and consequently the ethics board dropped its investigation into his activities.

APPEAL RULING

Okeyo and Kinyua deny wrongdoing, saying that the money was legitimate payment for their own expenses and expertise and for payments they personally made to athletes.

Okeyo said: “My lawyers will appeal the ruling. I think it’s discriminatory. All three of us were signatories to our bank. We will appeal.”

Kinyua told Reuters on Thursday that he was happy with the decision and that “justice was done”.

At the time of their suspensions Nike said the company had acted with integrity in its dealings with AK and that the “expectation and understanding” of the sponsorship deal was that the funds would be used to support and service the teams and athletes.

The judgement, however, showed that Nike had clearly been concerned about how the funds were being used and that the ethics panel was satisfied that in many, though not all of the instances it investigated, funds were being siphoned off.

“In failing to disclose the honorarium and service fee payments to the membership of AK, the panel is comfortably satisfied that the defendants diverted funds of AK for their own direct or indirect personal benefit, as charged,” the Board said in its findings.

“In the view of the panel, Mr Okeyo’s conduct in failing as Secretary General of AK ... constituted conduct likely to bring the sport of athletics into disrepute.”

On one occasion in 2010 Okeyo withdrew $200,000 from AK accounts, saying subsequently that the money was used by AK to promote its athletics programmes.

However, the panel said that Okeyo could not produce any evidence to show that the executive board had approved this course of action, “nor did he provide any details as to what programmes had been supported, nor did he furnish any evidence by way of payment vouchers or supporting invoices to corroborate his account.”

The report added: “Under cross-examination, when asked to explain the purpose for the withdrawal of $200,000, Mr Okeyo could provide no explanation, other than that he had been instructed to withdraw the money.”

Okeyo has also been charged with the extortion of money from athletes but the ethics panel will issue a separate decision in relation to that charge.

Reporting by Mitch Phillips, additional reporting by Isaack Omulo editing by Pritha Sarkar

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