Athletics: Drug-tainted Kenyan runners claim they were victims of extortion

World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman said that the organisation was most disturbed by these reports regarding extortion and bribery at the national level of sport.
World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman said that the organisation was most disturbed by these reports regarding extortion and bribery at the national level of sport. PHOTO: AFP

NAIROBI • Kenyan athlete Francisca Koki, suspended for doping, said she and fellow runner Joyce Zakari were asked to pay nearly US$50,000 (S$69,500) in bribes to the national athletics federation chief for his help in the case.

Koki and Zakari, suspended for doping violations at the Beijing World Championships, claimed Athletics Kenya chief executive officer Isaac Mwangi asked them for the bribe but they were unable to pay.

"The two of us were asked to give 2.5 million shillings (US$24,000) each by Athletics Kenya's Isaac Mwangi," Koki, 22, said. "We could not afford such a big sum of money... for me I have never even seen such an amount."

Mwangi has denied the claims.

Both Koki and Zakari, 29, were each given a four-year ban after being found guilty of using a prohibited substance, Furosemide, in Beijing in August last year. Koki, a 400m hurdler, said she and Zakari were asked for cash in October, a month before their suspension.

"We thought it was unfair for an official to ask for money from us, especially when we were in such a kind of a desperate situation after we had been kept in suspense for a long time before the four-year suspension was imposed on us," Koki said. "We are crying for our case to be heard, because we believe many other athletes have been faced with the same dilemma."

BUCK MUST STOP HERE

We are crying for our case to be heard, because we believe many other athletes have been faced with the same dilemma.

FRANCISCA KOKI, Kenyan athlete, who is alleging that she and fellow runner Joyce Zakari were asked to pay bribes after being found guilty of using drugs.

She said she had spoken to International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) officials on the matter.

Mwangi said he had spoken to both Koki and Zakari, but dismissed their claims he had asked for a bribe.

"It's just a fabrication because, according to the rules, if you are caught doping, the sanction is very standard," he said.

"It's very interesting that people are saying that they are being asked for money because once the decision is heard and determined, it's very clear there is no way Athletics Kenya can reduce the suspensions.

"These are just allegations that we will definitely follow up and get to know what is the motive behind this."

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said it was "extremely troubled" by the allegations.

"Wada is most disturbed by these reports regarding extortion and bribery at the national level of sport," Wada director general David Howman said in a statement.

He said his organisation would seek more details of the allegations to determine if it was a matter for Wada or the IAAF ethics commission to investigate.

The allegations are the latest to rock athletics, with Kenya, along with Russia, at the forefront of many of the doping and corruption issues that have dragged the sport through the gutter in the last six months.

Kenya remains the powerhouse of endurance running but also impressed in Beijing, where they won golds in the 400m hurdles and the javelin. It topped the overall medal table at the world championships for the first time last year, winning seven golds.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Drug-tainted Kenyan runners reveal extortion racket'. Print Edition | Subscribe