28th April 2021

Kenya: who is fabricating what and why?

Elias Kiptum Miandi has been arrested on 12 counts of forgery, after an investigation by Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) accused the athlete of being part of a criminal syndicate working with foreign journalists to fabricate Kenyan doping stories. Kenya’s Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage (MSCH) accused Kiptum and foreign journalists of fabricating Kenyan doping stories in order to undermine the country’s performance at major athletics championships.

Kiptum denies all charges and remains in custody. A bail hearing was held on 27 April.

However, who is faking the documents may not be as simple as the theory put forward by the Kenyan authorities. The Sports Integrity Initiative has reported on a number of Kenyan doping cases involving allegations that documentation has been faked, detailed below. In all cases, the journalists insist that the documentation is genuine. Could an an ulterior motive exist for alleging that a conspiracy exists designed to besmirch Kenyan athletics?

The charges

‘The perpetrators had prepared documents purporting that doping was being promoted and encouraged by several state agencies in the country, with the aim of having Kenya suspended from participating in the forthcoming Olympics in Japan’, read a Twitter thread (below) posted by the DCI. ‘Forged documents purportedly signed by officials from the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) and Athletics Kenya (AK) were shared with the Europe-based journalists. 

‘In a thorough operation by DCI sleuths on April 18, a raid conducted at Kiptum’s residence in Iten, within Elgeyo Marakwet County saw the confiscation of several documents bearing ADAK and AK letter heads, alongside suspicious bank slips. Contract agreement documents between local suspects and the foreign journalists, three laptops, mobile phones among other electronic gadgets were also confiscated from the suspect’s house and are undergoing forensic analysis at DCI Headquarters.’

‘Unscrupulous characters embark on a mission to disparage Kenya’s decades of well-deserved sporting repertoire and our leadership in the global anti-doping efforts’, reads a statement from Kenya’s MSCH. ‘It is particularly disheartening to note that while our local journalists accord international athletes competing in our country and externally full support and respect, certain international journalists have made this ‘doping’ crusade a personal mission and progressed journalistic material in the form of documentaries, digital and print press based on false information aimed at destabilizing the fabric of our national sporting heritage. Thankfully, this crusade is limited to a small number of journalists from Germany and more recently Denmark and Norway.

‘We can trace this trend to the eve of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, 2019 World Athletic Championships in Doha and most recently, an ongoing attempt to tarnish our respected national standing as we prepare teams for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. These allegations are baseless, careless, reckless and attack the credibility of an entire country and our hard working, globally renowned athletes who have worked tirelessly to earn their place on the international hall of fame.’

Comments made by Kiptum in July 2020 about Marathon runner Wilson Kipsang appear to directly contradict the version of events put forward by the Kenyan authorities. “Most of those who don’t run and perhaps maybe the international community make a presumption that maybe all top Kenyan runners are dopers”, he told the BBC. “It produces a negative impact on the outside world”.

Background

In 2018, the IAAF (now World Athletics) cleared former Athletics Kenya officials David Okeyo and Isaac Mwangi of charges that they extorted money from six athletes in return for covering up positive doping tests. It heard evidence suggesting documents had been faked, witnesses procured, and athletes pressurised in order to provide the defendants with an alibi. 

However unlike athletes accused of doping, sporting officials accused of corruption are not presumed guilty until they can prove their innocence. The IAAF Ethics Board found that the charges against Okeyo and Mwangi hadn’t been proven beyond reasonable doubt. It also found that Kiptum’s evidence in support of Kiplagat and Okeyo couldn’t be trusted.

Kiptum argued that the allegations of a doping cover up were a creation of the journalists, similar to the theory put forward by the Kenyan authorities. At a meeting with Kiplagat and Okeyo, he alleged that a statement was made withdrawing the allegations. Okeyo told the IAAF that such a meeting had taken place, despite not mentioning it in his defence. However, the IAAF Ethics Board Panel found Miandi’s evidence to be ‘so improbable as to be implausible’.

‘After a consideration of all these circumstances, the Panel does not accept that Mr Kiptum Maindi decided of his own accord in April 2017 to approach lawyers to assist him to prepare a written statement confessing that he had been part of a group of athletes who had sought untruthfully to accuse Mr Okeyo of extortion’, reads the Decision (below). ‘The Panel also does not accept that it was a mere coincidence that the lawyers he approached happened to be the very lawyers representing Mr Okeyo in these disciplinary proceedings who at the time would have been preparing Mr Okeyo’s defence. Similarly, the Panel does not accept Mr Kiptum Maindi’s denial that he approached Mr Kipchumba to sign the disputed statement shortly after he had signed his own.’

The IAAF Ethics Board Decision revealed that Kiptum assisted journalists working for ARD in contacting and meeting athletes. It is understood that he also provided evidence to the same journalists which upon verification, they found to be fake and so didn’t use. As such, they relied on other sources.

The charges against Okeyo, a former Athletics Kenya Vice President and IAAF Council member, related to four athletes: Ronald Kipchumba, Peris Jepkorir, Viola Kimetto, and Wilson Erupe. The charges against Mwangi, a former CEO of Athletics Kenya, related to Joy Sakari, Francesca Koki, Peris Jepkorir, and Wilson Erupe. 

They date back to a 2012 documentary produced for German television station ARD by Hajo Seppelt and his team. After he was issued with a two year ban in 2012 following a positive test for Erythropoietin (EPO), Kipchumba was approached by journalists – including the ARD team – to tell his story. Some of the allegations were built upon in a 2015 documentary, ‘Poisoned Spikes’ and in ‘Doping – Top Secret: The Shadowy World Of Athletics’ (videos below).

In a follow up video (below) a clinical officer at St. Luke’s hospital in Eldoret, Ken Kipchumba Limo, claimed to have supplied 50 athlete from all over Europe. However, as the undercover reporters were British, he was only prepared to supply them with the names of British athletes he claimed to have treated. The video footage shows the medical file of a top UK athlete he claimed to have supplied with EPO.

In July 2016, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced it was sending two staff to the country to investigate. Journalists supplied the names of the three athletes concerned to the Kenyan authorities, who also began investigations.

In August 2017, UKAD told the Mail On Sunday that it had closed its investigation into whether the athletes had been supplied with EPO, concluding that the medical files supplied to reporters had been faked. UKAD previously told The Sports Integrity Initiative that it couldn’t elaborate on who had faked the documents and why, due to ongoing criminal investigations. 

The reporters involved in the investigation insist that the documents are genuine. They also allege that UKAD never asked them to supply them with their documentation. 

Papa Massata Diack with current World Athletics President Sebastian Coe…

In 2019, an indictment issued by French prosecutors against Lamine Diack, former President of the IAAF and his son, Papa Massata Diack, alleged that British athletes including a Gold medalist and ‘sports icon’ were involved in blood doping at the London 2012 Olympics. Also in 2019 Michael Rotich, Head Coach of the Kenyan athletics team for the Rio 2016 Olympics, told undercover reporters that two British Doping Control Officers (DCOs) would be able to supply him with advanced notice of planning anti-doping tests. 

However, it appears that in Kenya, this is not unusual. In February 2016, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, Canadian Marathon runner Reid Coolsaet alleged that IAAF-accredited tests in Kenya were lacking. In a subsequent interview, he said that the DCO in charge of a test had apologised for late notice, after notifying him that he would be tested the following day. The Mail On Sunday reported that it had seen a signed testimony – in other words documentary evidence – from a world record holder confirming that athletes were tipped off about planned tests in Kenya. 

January 2019 Athletics Kenya letter also showing spelling mistake on the official seal…

In September 2019, Athletics Kenya alleged that a letter published by journalists suggesting that its officials could ‘secure freedom’ for athletes accused of doping is a forgery. A day later, German broadcaster ZDF refuted Athletics Kenya’s claims that its journalists had been duped in return for financial compensation. Again, this involves documentary evidence.

Kenya’s MSCH took aim at a ZDF journalist, Christian Rohde, in its statement. It it said he had informed ADAK that he had received information that ADAK and Athletics Kenya are involved in systematic cover ups of doping cases. 

Holes

There are a number of holes in the theory put forward by the Kenyan authorities. Firstly, in the IAAF Ethics Board case, Kiptum was involved in supporting Athletics Kenya officials through the production of evidence that the IAAF didn’t trust.

Why would Kiptum perform a u-turn and seek to sell false information to foreign journalists in order to implicate Athletics Kenya officials? If he is motivated by financial rewards, as the statements from the Kenyan authorities suggest, is it possible that former Athletics Kenya officials convinced Kiptum to cooperate during the IAAF Ethics Board case?

Secondly, the documentation claiming that three British athletes had been treated with EPO in Kenya had nothing to do with Kenyan athletes or Kiptum. In addition, journalists for ARD argue that they didn’t use any evidence provided by him as it was found to be false. Thirdly, why would a journalist who alleges that ADAK is involved with covering up positive doping cases inform ADAK? 

Questions also abound regarding UKAD’s decision to close its 2017 investigation into the medical documents suggesting that EPO had been supplied to British athletes. The apparent failure to ask journalists to supply the documents they obtained suggests that its investigators may have accepted claims from the Kenyan authorities that the documents had been faked, without verifying if this was accurate. 

In addition, UKAD has not revealed whether any action was taken against British doping control officers (DCOs) over claims that they supplied advance notice of doping tests. Major Michael Rotich, Head Coach of the Kenyan Athletics team for Rio 2016, was filmed claiming that British DCOs gave him advance notice of when and where tests would take place.

A Kenyan former athlete and policeman involved in investigations into the situation, Julius Ndegwa, told the Mail on Sunday that he had been refused access to a training camp used by British Athletics. He told the newspaper that he had only been granted access after informing Sharad Rao, the former judge leading the IAAF’s investigations into Kenyan allegations, about the situation. Rao was the chief investigator into the allegations against Rotich. Unfortunately, UKAD doesn’t comment on investigations.

Is Kiptum Kenya’s Dr. Rodchenkov?

The syringe allegedly found at a Kenyan stadium…

In its statement, Kenya’s MSCH refers to journalists from ‘Germany, and more recently Denmark and Norway’. In April last year, Anti-Doping World published photos of syringes found at the Kamariny Stadium in Iten. Anti-Doping World is managed by a Norwegian.

Interestingly, Athletics Kenya also claimed that ‘similar pictures of syringes left in dustbins have been circulated in the past only to turn out they were stage managed’. This is understood to be a reference to a 2016 investigation, where investigative journalists found packets of EPO and needles in the bins of the High Altitude Training Camp (HATC), which is also located near Iten (video below – see from 2:10).

The above video also features a Kenyan pacemaker at the camp, Frederick (Freddy) Lemishen Ngoyon, agreeing to buy EPO for €60. He has denied any part in arranging to supply EPO to athletes, and also claimed that he was set up by the documentary makers, a claim they deny. 

“It is true that we visited twice, however the idea that we set him up is nonsense, as you can see from the raw footage”, said Hajo Seppelt, who produced ARD’s coverage of the 2016 investigation. Like Seppelt, Anti-Doping World also insists that its evidence is genuine (see below). 
As pointed out in the above post, foreign runners train in Iten. The Eldoret/Kapsabet region, at 2,100 metres above sea level, is the gateway city to high-altitude training in surrounding Kenyan villages. Over a sustained period, altitude training is thought to benefit athletes as lower oxygen levels mean that the body increases red blood cell and haemoglobin production. This aids the blood in carrying oxygen to the muscles, a benefit that remains for 10-14 days when the athlete returns to lower altitude. 

Great Britain’s Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe trained in the area ahead of the London 2012 Olympics. As the BBC footage below reveals, Farah was filmed training with Freddy Ngoyon, the pacesetter who was filmed buying EPO, during 2013. However, this was three years before the documentary for ARD, and there is nothing to suggest anything more than a professional relationship between the two.

In January last year, Farah was pictured training in Kenya with Paralympian Derek Rae (see below). The location? Iten, which is in the Eldoret/Kapsabet region, and where Ngoyon worked for the High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) where EPO paraphernalia was found in the bins. 

In September 2019, journalists for Al Jazeera spoke to a Kenyan athlete who claimed to have used EPO and a pharmacist based in Eldoret who had supplied EPO to six athletes. A pharmacist separately told local journalists with Kenya’s The Citizen that he is supplying EPO to athletes for as little as €17 a dose, corroborating Al Jazeera’s evidence. This was seven years after the issue was first highlighted in 2012. 

Could there be another reason why training in the Eldoret/Kapsabet region is so valued by European athletes? Is the widespread availability of EPO, as alleged by journalists, vital to attract doping tourists and their money to the area? If this is correct, one might question if Kenyan authorities are keen to tackle the problem.

In August 2018, the IAAF Ethics Board found that former senior officials at Athletics Kenya diverted payments made by Nike to the national federation for their own personal benefit. Those involved? Former Athletics President Isaiah Kiplagat, former Treasurer Joseph Kinuya, and former Vice President David Okeyo.

This is the same Okeyo that the IAAF was forced to clear of extorting money from athletes in return for covering up doping offences. The same Okeyo that Kiptum attempted to support through evidence that the IAAF Ethics Board found couldn’t be trusted.

Kiplagat and Okeyo were both former members of the IAAF Council. Kiplagat lost out in his bid to become a Vice President of the IAAF at the August 2015 IAAF Congress, which elected Sebastian Coe as President. In December 2015, Coe told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee of the UK Parliament that Okeyo was also implicated regarding the receipt of two vehicles from the Qatar Athletics Federation (QAF). 

In October 2018, four former Government officials and three former Olympic officials were charged with misappropriation of funds designed to support Kenyan athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympics. This included the former Minister of Sports, Culture and the Arts, whose department issued the release accusing journalists of a campaign to undermine Kenyan athletic success.

The above two examples are relevant because they illustrates that Kenyan sporting and government officials have been involved with corruption. This doesn’t automatically mean that they strayed into covering up positive doping cases, but it does cast doubt on their claims that doping allegations are a complete fabrication. Similarly and as illustrated above, if Kiptum did forge documents, it doesn’t automatically mean that every Kenyan doping story is a complete fabrication.

In July 2013, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the rest of the sporting world ignored an exposé in the Mail on Sunday regarding State doping in Russia. In December 2014, a documentary by Seppelt for ARD meant that the sporting world could ignore the issue no longer.

Russia’s solution? Like Kenya, it initially launched a criminal investigation. Like Kenya, it then changed tack and blamed a single person (Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov) for ‘acting alone’ in extorting athletes for money in exchange for covering up positive doping tests. Six years on, the result of its criminal investigation has yet to be announced. Nine years on, it would appear that the supply of EPO to athletes in Kenya has yet to be solved.

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