Protesters occupy headquarters of Kenya athletics federation
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) A group of Kenyan athletes occupied the headquarters of the national track and field federation on Monday, demanding the removal of its top officials in a protest against doping and corruption.
About 50 runners aligned to the Professional Athletics Association of Kenya said they would not leave the Athletics Kenya premises until federation president Isaiah Kiplagat and his executive body stepped down.
The protesters, led by the association's secretary general, Julius Ndegwa, stormed the building shortly after 7:30 a.m. local time and asked federation staff to leave their offices. They barricaded the front gates and refused access to anyone seeking to enter. The protesters put up banners and placards on the gates and steps leading into the building.
Ndegwa said the group's main grievance was the rise in doping cases in Kenya and alleged misappropriation of funds by Kiplagat and one of his vice presidents, David Okeyo, who are being investigated by police and the IAAF ethics commission after being accused siphoning more than $700,000 from sponsor Nike.
''Everybody is complaining against him, even at the IAAF, everybody, even at Nike,'' Ndewga said of Kiplagat. ''The doping menace has been caused by him and under his office, so we want a clean sport and we need change to happen with immediate effect and that would be today.''
Another AK vice president, Jack Tuwei, told reporters outside the building: ''We do not recognize this group.''
Speaking separately, federation CEO Isaac Mwangi said: ''We have not talked to them. We will listen to their grievances.''
The protesters included retired athletes such as women's 400-meter hurdles national record holder Rose Tata Muya and former African 3,000-meter record holder Justina Jepchirchir. The group did not include of Kenya's world-renowned runners.
Wilson Kispang, the former marathon world record holder and two-time London Marathon champion who is PAAK's chairman, was not present. Kipsang and 2012 Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir, who is also a member of parliament, were due to arrive from Eldoret.
The protest led to the postponement of an AK national executive meeting on Monday morning. The committee had planned to discuss the possibility of early elections to pave the way for Kiplagat's successor. His current term is scheduled to end in 2017.
Also on the agenda was how to respond to allegations that officials accepted bribes to cover up doping cases and money from sponsors to award the national team contract.
The protests did not garner widespread support across Kenya's running fraternity, notably among those from the Rift Valley region that is the cradle of the country's famed distance running program.
In a post on Twitter, London and Berlin Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge called the protest ''a total shame.''
''It's regrettable to see some few individuals claiming to be athletes taking law into their hands,'' 2006 Commonwealth champion Augustine Choge wrote on Facebook. ''Those few individuals should be held accountable for any damages caused.''