Nairobi - Kenya's runners impressed at the Rio Olympics, but
to the country's shame its officials were equally distinguished when it came to
Six gold medals -- including in both men's and women's
marathons -- six silvers and one bronze put Kenya in 15th place overall and
made it the top African nation by far, yet a shameful shadow hangs over what
was the best Kenyan Olympics performance ever.
Leading the controversy was the dismissal of track team
manager Michael Rotich, recalled from Rio after an undercover investigation
accused him of seeking a $13,000 (11,500 euros) bung to warn runners of
"surprise" drugs tests.
Soon afterwards another coach, John Azrah, was also recalled
after apparently attempting to pass himself off as one of his runners and then
giving a urine sample. However, some have defended Azrah, 61, saying he only
took the runner's ID so he could get a free breakfast at the Olympic Village.
- Trouble from the start -
Kenya's Olympics was in trouble before it even began. The
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) only cleared the country's athletes at the last
minute after parliamentarians botched the passage of a new law designed to
convince world authorities that Kenya is serious about tackling the widespread
doping that has seen at least 40 athletes banned since 2012.
Controversy also kicked off Kenya's Olympics when athletes
appeared at the opening ceremony in mismatched gear, despite kit sponsor Nike
providing ample outfits. Deputy president William Ruto, who was in Rio, called
for criminal and parliamentary enquiries after Nike complained that much of the
apparel had gone missing.
Meanwhile, Kenyan media -- and social media -- have been
ablaze with stories of unknown hangers-on and freebie-seekers living large as
part of the supposedly official delegation.
But while the liggers appeared to have no trouble reaching
Rio, athletes were less fortunate. Someone forgot to book a plane ticket for
javelin world champion Julius Yego -- who went on to win Olympics silver --
while 200m sprinter Carvin Nkanata's accreditation was submitted late meaning
he almost missed his race.
Nor did the embarrassment end with the Olympics' closing:
there has been no official homecoming with many of the athletes opting to sneak
into the country to prevent officials basking in the glory of their
"We don't want people to hog publicity from our arrival
when they have treated us badly," one athlete told the Daily Nation newspaper.
Others are still stranded in Rio with marathoner and MP
Wesley Korir issuing a barrage of tweets from Brazil deploring their treatment
and alleging officials had left them languishing in a bid to find cheaper
President Uhuru Kenyatta said those found responsible for
the shambles would "face the consequences of their actions".
"We will ensure that lessons are learnt, questions are
answered, action is taken and full accountability achieved," Kenyatta said
- 'Heads must roll' -
Sports minister Hassan Wario was questioned by detectives on
Wednesday as calls for his resignation grew louder.
"He was asked to explain what exactly happened in Rio
especially how the team was treated, the contingent that travelled to Rio and
allegations by kit sponsors Nike over the allocation of uniforms," said a
source at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
"It is certain that heads must roll," the source
Also read: Administrative ineptitude threatens to hobble Kenya’s track and field athletes
Officials from the National Olympics Committee of Kenya
(NOCK) are also due to be questioned.
On Thursday Wario put the blame on NOCK officials,
announcing the disbandment of the committee and establishment of yet another
"probe committee". The move was immediately contested by NOCK
secretary-general Francis Paul who in turn blamed the government.
The discontent has made its way from the streets and the
news pages to parliament. "The stories that were coming out of Rio were
shameful and shocking," said MP Isaac Mwaura.
In a country where athletics is a major source of national
pride the outcome of investigations will be a test for the Kenyan president and
his repeated promises to hold the corrupt and inept to account.
But despite the combative rhetoric and the promised probes
there is scepticism that any action will be taken by a government that has
characterised the problems in Rio as "mishaps".
Perhaps the most astonishing fact of all is that Kenya's
athletes triumphed, in spite of -- not because of -- the country's officials.For
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