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February 17, 2019

Duo’s sigh of relief

Former Athletics Kenya vice president David Okeyo / REUTERS
Former Athletics Kenya vice president David Okeyo / REUTERS

 Former senior Kenyan athletics official David Okeyo, who was last week banned from the sport for life for siphoning sponsorship funds, has been cleared a extorting money from athletes in exchange for lighter sentences in doping cases.

Okeyo, a former Secretary-General and Vice President of Athletics Kenya (AK) as well as a member of the IAAF Council, and Isaac Mwangi, former CEO of AK, were both cleared of extortion changes by an IAAF Ethics Board on Thursday in a 62-page judgement.

Despite the verdicts, however, the panel noted deep concerns about the evidence and the procedures and structures of the sport’s governing body in Kenya, the dominant force in distance running for decades, and said that extortion may well have taken place and recommended changes.

Last week, Okeyo was banned and fined US$50,000 after being found guilty of diverting thousands of dollars of Nike sponsorship payments for his personal use. He has denied any wrongdoing and said he plans to appeal.

Thursday’s Ethics Panel report concerned a separate issue, namely that he tried 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 he and Mwangi both denied.

The charges against Okeyo related 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 Koki Manunga.

Mwangi was suspended in February 2016 pending the hearing following reports that sprinter Sakari and hurdler Manunga said he had asked them for $24,000 to reduce the four-year bans they were given after testing positive in 2015.

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