RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Kenya’s team have sent their track and field manager home from Rio, Olympics bosses said on Sunday, after allegations he requested money to let undercover journalists, posing as athlete representatives, know when drugs testers would come calling.
Michael Rotich denies the accusation published in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper. The Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya said it would look into the report, while the Kenyan sports minister questioned why allegations stemming from a secret recording earlier this year were published after the Olympics began.
“The national Olympic committee (of Kenya) has asked that he leaves as his presence is distracting the team,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
“These are very serious allegations. We will wait to see that evidence of malpractice ... if he could deliver what he claimed he could deliver.”
The Sunday Times newspaper article said Rotich had been filmed by undercover journalists some months ago, asking for cash in return for warning them ahead of any doping tests.
Kenya’s reputation has been tarnished by more than 40 doping cases in the past four years and at one point the East African nation’s participation at the Rio Olympics, which started on Friday, was seen to be in jeopardy.
Kenya has produced some of the finest middle and long-distance runners in the past decades and topped the medals table at last year’s world athletics championships.
The World Anti-Doping Agency in May put Kenya on its non-compliant list as an anti-doping law passed by the Kenyan parliament was not in line with WADA’s own code. The government later amended the bill and it was taken off the list only last week.
Hassan Wario, Kenya’s sports minister, said the East African nation would review the evidence from German broadcaster ARD and the Sunday Times but he was suspicious about its timing and believed it may have been designed to discredit Kenyan runners.
“There is staggering difference between exposing wrongdoing and casually engaging in the wholesale denigration of a nation’s legacy. The latter we will not tolerate,” Wario said in a statement.
Among the Kenyan athletes to have failed drug tests are former Boston City Marathon and Chicago Marathon champion, Rita Jeptoo. Her case is being dealt with at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The runner has denied doping.
“The track and field team in Kenya is the most tested track and field team in the last two years,” Adams said, adding they had undergone 848 tests, with about half of them out-of-competition.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Hay