24 May 2019

Rotich ban renews questions over British doping in Kenya

A ten year ban issued to Major Michael Rotich, Head Coach of the Kenyan athletics team for the Rio 2016 Olympics, has renewed questions as to whether British athletes and Doping Control Officers (DCOs) were involved with organised doping in Kenya. As detailed in the decision below, Rotich was sanctioned with a ten year ban by the Ethics Board of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for agreeing to supply advance notice about when anti-doping tests would take place in exchange for money. He was filmed agreeing to do this by undercover reporters posing as the manager and coach of a fictional British team.

In the original video (below), Rotich says that two British DCOs who work in Kenya would be able to supply him with details of planned tests. “They have a list that says: ‘I’m going to test so and so’”, he said.

The above IAAF decision confirms that when reporters confronted Rotich with the footage, he argued he had played along in an attempt to implicate the reporters, whom he thought were corrupt officials. This doesn’t explain why, when offered £9,000 by the reporters, he asked them to up it to a £10,000 “round figure”.

The IAAF decision confirms that when reporters asked him why he hadn’t alerted anybody, he said that he had shared the information with “other agencies”. It also confirms that Rotich later ‘changed his story’, stating that he hadn’t alerted anybody else “because it wasn’t necessary”.

The IAAF decision mentions that in the video footage, Rotich mentions a ‘British couple’ that conduct tests, who would be able to let him know about when and where they were due to take place. It doesn’t elaborate on who that British couple might be.

As outlined in the above decision, the two Sunday Times reporters met Rotich and pharmacist Joseph Mwangi in January 2016, who offered to sell them erythropoietin (EPO) for use by the athletes they purported to represent. The footage showed a clinical officer at St. Luke’s hospital in Eldoret claiming to have supplied 50 athletes from various European countries. 

As the undercover reporters were English the clinical officer, Ken Kipchumba Limo, was only prepared to supply them with the names of British athletes he claimed to have treated. The undercover footage showed the medical file of a top UK athlete he claimed to have treated with EPO. 

It is understood that Mwangi, doctor Samson Talei and Kipchumba are subject to criminal charges in Kenya relating to the supply of prohibited substances to athletes. The IAAF decision confirms that Kenyan criminal proceedings are ongoing.

UKAD investigation

In July 2016, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced it was sending two staff to Kenya to investigate. UKAD told the Mail on Sunday that it had closed its investigation into whether three British athletes had been supplied with EPO in August 2017, concluding that the medical files supplied to reporters had been faked.

UKAD previously told The Sports Integrity Initiative that it couldn’t elaborate on its findings into who had faked the documents and why, due to the ongoing criminal investigation. UKAD today confirmed that as criminal charges were levied against Rotich in June last year, this remains the case. 

As UKAD only announces and comments on anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs), it might never be able to publish its findings on who it found to have faked the documents, and why. The reporters involved say that the documents appear to be genuine. ARD and the Sunday Times have supplied the names of the athletes to the Kenyan authorities.

High Altitude Training Centre

The three athletes interviewed by UKAD were visitors to the High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) at Iten, 2,400m above sea level. The ARD video features footage of used packets of EPO and needles in the training camp’s bins. It also features footage of a Kenyan pacesetter at the camp, Fredrick Lemishen Ngoyon, who was used by European athletes, arranging to buy EPO from Mwangi in Eldoret for the equivalent of €60. Both were arrested, and Kipchumba told ARD and the Sunday Times that he fabricated his story in order to attract business.

The HATC camp is run by husband and wife team Lornah Kiplagat and Pieter Langerhorst. Kiplagat who has held distance world records and competed for the Netherlands at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics. Langerhorst dismissed any suggestion that the camp was complicit in doping athletes.

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. 

A number of endurance athletes have trained in this area – including Britain’s Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe ahead of the London 2012 Olympics. Farah was filmed training with Ngoyon, the Kenyan pacemaker accused of supplying athletes with EPO, during 2013, as the BBC footage below reveals. However, the footage was filmed three years before ARD’s documentary and the Sunday Times’s article, and there is nothing to suggest he had any such discussions with Farah.

Ngoyon denied any part in arranging to supply EPO to athletes, and has 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 the documentary for ARD.

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 alleged that the DCO in charge of a test had apologised for late notice, after notifying him that he would be tested the following day.

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 telling Sharad Rao, the former judge leading the IAAF’s investigations into Kenyan allegations, about the situation. Rao is also named in the above IAAF Ethics Board decision as the chief investigator into the allegations against Rotich.

Rosa e Associati

Marathon runner Matthew Kisorio was involved in an earlier documentary detailing allegations of doping in Eldoret, produced by Seppelt in 2012. He told Seppelt that many Kenyan athletes were doping and Athletics Kenya was ignoring the situation. 

Kisorio completed a two year ban after testing positive for steroids in 2012. Many of his allegations were corroborated by a 2015 documentary, Poisoned Spikes (video below), in which other athletes made similar allegations.

Kisorio’s management company, Rosa e Associati, was suspended from working with Kenyan athletes for six months by Athletics Kenya in April 2015. In July 2016, Italian coach Federico Rosa was released on bail after facing criminal charges relating to doping.

Rosa e Associati has also represented the following athletes who have been involved in anti-doping proceedings:

Jemima Sumgong, sanctioned with a four year ban after an AAF for EPO;
Rita Jeptoo, sanctioned with a two year ban after an AAF for EPO – later increased to four years at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after an appeal from the IAAF;
Amantle Montsho, who abandoned an appeal against a two year ban after an AAF for methylhexanamine at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, due to rising costs.

Athletics Kenya

Kisorio also told Seppelt that Athletics Kenya officials were extorting money from athletes in return for the covering up of positive tests. In September last year, the IAAF Ethics Board has 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 tests.

The IAAF Ethics Board Panel concluded that the charges against Okeyo and Mwangi could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore no breach of the IAAF Ethics Code had been established. It also found that evidence suggesting documents had been faked, witnesses procured, and athletes pressurised in order to provide the defendants with an alibi, could not be proven. 

In its concluding remarks, the panel said that it had been ‘perturbed’ by some of the evidence outlined in the case. An earlier IAAF investigation into Isaiah Kiplagat, the former President of Athletics Kenya who was an IAAF Council member in 2012, was dropped due to his 2016 death. 

Kiplagat had worked at Athletics Kenya for 40 years, becoming Chairman of the Kenya Amateur Athletics Association – as it was then known – in 1992. He was appointed to the IAAF Council in 1999, and was provisionally suspended by the IAAF in November 2015, due to allegations that he had subverted the doping control process in Kenya, and had diverted sponsorship money paid by Nike. 

The IAAF separately found that he had accepted two cars from Qatar as a gift, in connection with its failed bid to host the 2017 IAAF World Championships. In August 2018, IAAF Ethics Board found that Okeyo, appointed as an IAAF Council member in 2015, diverted sponsorship payments made by Nike to Athletics Kenya for his own personal benefit, and issued him with a life ban.

It has also been alleged that official Kenyan Rio 2016 kit was sold to members of the public; that kit destined for Rio 2016 athletes remained at the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) offices in Kenya; and that unfit accommodation was obtained for the Kenyan team after NOCK failed to secure a flight until after the Olympic Village had closed. Chef de Mission Stephen arap Soi, NOCK Secretary General F. K. Paul and Assistant Secretary James Chacha were arrested in Nairobi after arriving home from Rio.

Current IAAF President Sebastian Coe had sat on the same IAAF Council as Kiplagat as its Vice President since 2007. Nick Davies, formerly Director of Coe’s Office, was banned for life in February 2017 over a plot to delay the announcement of Russian doping positives until after the Moscow 2013 IAAF World Championships, whilst he was the IAAF’s Director of Communications. Coe accepted advice from Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, about his successful election as IAAF President in 2015.

Cog in the wheel

Much of the above is irrelevant to Major Michael Rotich. It has been included to show that there are often links between those involved with corruption in sport. It also illustrates the potential difficulties when multiple authorities investigate allegations of corruption that involve people from different jurisdictions. 

UKAD’s mandate is to investigate whether Britons have breached anti-doping rules. The IAAF’s mandate is to investigate whether anyone that falls under its jurisdiction has breached its Code of Ethics. Kenyan authorities are investigating whether any potential beaches of criminal law. Although all three organisations exchanged information about the above allegations, these are not mandates that easily marry together.

Although we know that Rotich was willing to accept money from undercover reporters to provide advance notice of doping tests, we do not know whether this actually happened. Although we know that British DCOs were allegedly involved, we don’t know for certain that they were, as Rotich may have been bluffing.

What we do know is that a number of Athletics Kenya officials, some of whom sat on the IAAF Council, have been charged with corruption offences. Many Athletics Kenya officials have been accused of other corruption offences. It therefore seems a fair assessment to assume that Major Rotich was just a cog in a larger wheel of corruption. 

You may also like...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This