Runners storm Athletics Kenya headquarters in Nairobi over corruption allegations
Protestors lock out officials, demand change amid claims of cover-ups, graft and doping in East African country, which boasts some of the world's finest middle and long-distance athletes
Dozens of Kenyan athletes stormed the local federation headquarters in Nairobi yesterday, locking out officials and demanding Athletics Kenya (AK) bosses step down over allegations of corruption and doping cover-ups.
Kenya, boasting some of the world's finest middle and long-distance runners, has in recent years been rocked by a spate of failed drug tests and the country's athletics federation has drawn criticism for not doing enough to tackle doping.
Allegations of corruption among AK chiefs tied to a Nike sponsorship deal, combined with Russia's recent ban from global athletics, have stirred fears that the East African nation could be banned from international track and field.
The mostly low-level athletes swooped on the AK headquarters, ordering staff to leave and barricading themselves inside the building.
"We are taking united action to bring sanity to Athletics Kenya management and leadership," the Professional Athletes' Association of Kenya (PAAK) said.
PAAK said the doping scandal and media claims that top AK officials had embezzled some sponsorship money deposited by US sports giant Nike were "putting genuine Kenyan athletes at risk of being banned".
AK officials have previously denied corruption and said the Nike deal was above board.
By noon, the athletes were still in control of the building, where placards aimed at AK officials read "corrupt go home" and "your time is over".
AK officials could not be reached for comment.
Wilson Kipsang, the two-time London marathon winner and president of PAAK, confirmed it was athletes from PAAK's Nairobi branch who had stormed the AK building.
"It's too early to make a comprehensive statement on their action. I am in touch with them and at this stage, I am still collecting facts from the ground," Kipsang, an Olympic marathon bronze medallist, said.
In Kenya's running heartlands in the Rift Valley region, most athletes blame AK for the growing doping problem. They say the federation has for years tried to sweep the problem under the carpet and hasn't tackled the issues seriously.
Isaac Mwangi, chief executive of AK, earlier said the federation was hamstrung by shortages of resources in the battle against doping but was doing its best.
"At Athletics Kenya our policy is very clear: we do not condone doping, we will not hide anyone who is caught doping," he said.
After meeting officials from the World Anti-Doping Agency this month, Kenya's Olympics committee chairman Kipchoge Keino said the country faced a suspension unless it took its fight against doping more seriously.