Hardly a week after being banned for life by IAAF, former Athletics Kenya (AK) Vice President David Okeyo, has been cleared on allegations of extorting money from athletes to cover up their doping cases.
Okeyo, a former Secretary-General and a member of the IAAF Council, and Isaac Mwangi, former CEO of AK, were both cleared of extortion charges by an IAAF Ethics Board on Thursday, September 6.
In its findings in a 62-page judgment, the Ethics Panel said none of the allegations of extortion made against Okeyo or Mwangi, had been proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
The duo were accused of trying to extort money “to help” Kenyan athletes who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, either by covering up their tests or for arranging lighter sentences, a charge both Okeyo and Mwangi denied.
Okeyo’s extortion charges were linked to four athletes – Ronald Kipchumba, Peris Jepkorir, Viola Kimetto and Wilson Erupe.
Mwangi was charged with trying to extort money from Erupe, Jepkorir, Joy Sakari and Fransisca Koki Manunga.
Mwangi was suspended in February 2016 pending the hearing following reports that sprinter Sakari and hurdler Manunga alleged he had asked them for $24,000 to reduce the four-year bans they were given after testing positive in 2015 at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China.
Okeyo was banned last week from the sport for life and fined $50,000 after being found guilty of diverting thousands of dollars of Nike sponsorship payments for his personal use.
However, the panel noted deep concerns about the evidence, procedures and structures of the sport’s governing body in Kenya, and said that extortion may well have taken place and recommended changes.
The panel said that the evidence raised enough concern to warrant the attention of both AK and the IAAF and urged them to take steps to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to prevent extortion by officials and others involved in the processes that enforce the anti-doping rules.
The panel noted two particular concerns. “Firstly, given the power and authority of national athletics officials over athletes, there may be a risk that unscrupulous officials will seek to take improper advantage of athletes.
“Secondly that should this happen, it is difficult for athletes to seek to vindicate their rights because often athletes are persons of limited or moderate means and often they are considerably younger and less experienced than sports administrators.
“In the view of the panel, the development of policies and practices to prevent the abuse of athletes, including well-publicised whistle-blower procedures within the sport, should be an urgent priority for the IAAF and its member federations.”