FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 file photo, junior athletes run past a sign for Athletics Kenya at the Discovery cross country races, an annual race held to identify up-and-coming new young talent, in Eldoret, Kenya. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WAD
Ben Curtis, File
April 08, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) The IAAF's ethics board on Friday rejected an appeal from the CEO of Kenya's track and field federation against his provisional suspension for allegedly soliciting bribes from two athletes.

Isaac Mwangi was provisionally suspended in February, after The Associated Press first reported the allegations from runners Joy Sakari and Francisca Koki Manunga.

Mwangi challenged that decision in March.

In a statement, the ethics board said it has dismissed his challenge.

Sakari and Manunga are serving four-year bans for doping at the 2015 world championships. In an AP interview, they said Athletics Kenya CEO Mwangi asked them each for a $24,000 bribe to reduce their suspensions. They said he asked for the payment in an Oct. 16 meeting, but that they could not raise the money. They then were informed of their four-year bans in a Nov. 27 email, but never filed a criminal complaint because, they said, they had no proof to back up their bribery accusation and also feared repercussions.

The ethics board said the athletes - who are both serving police officers - have since reiterated their allegations in signed written statements.

''They state that the accounts that they gave The Associated Press, and the content of The Associated Press article dated 10 February 2016, are true,'' the ethics board said.

Mwangi's challenge countered that the athletes are ''cheats'' and ''liars'' and that ''their evidence should not be trusted,'' the ethics board said.

On Friday, Mwangi told the AP that he now wanted a public hearing ''so that we can meet these accusers.''

When presented with the allegations in February, Mwangi denied meeting the athletes. In its decision, the IAAF's ethics board said he provided no alibi. The board also said his defense that he could not have influenced their doping cases was ''not wholly convincing.''

The board said Mwangi has not ''identified anything'' that sufficiently undermines the probe for his 180-day provisional suspension to be lifted.

Sakari and Manunga told AP the alleged Oct. 16 meeting took place at AK's headquarters in Nairobi.

The ethics board said Mwangi ''accepts that both he and the athletes were indeed present in the Athletics Kenya offices in Riadha House on the day in question'' but says he could not have met them because his schedule was ''very tight.''

The board said the probe should continue.

''There is still a prima facie case, and one fit for further investigation against Mr. Mwangi,'' it said.

The ethics board's decision to reject the appeal now frees up the IAAF investigator in Kenya, Sharad Rao, to begin a formal investigation of Mwangi, Rao said.

Rao is a former director of public prosecutions in Kenya and a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The IAAF ethics board, through Rao, is also investigating three other senior executives from the Kenyan federation for alleged corruption.

Athletics Kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat, vice president and IAAF council member David Okeyo and former federation treasurer Joseph Kinyua have all been suspended pending investigations. They are accused of subverting the anti-doping process in Kenya and financial misconduct for the alleged embezzlement of more than $700,000 of sponsorship money from Nike.

Kiplagat, a former IAAF council member, is also accused of receiving an ''apparent gift'' of two cars from the Qatar Athletics Federation between 2014 and 2015. The cars are alleged to relate to the 2014 decision to award Qatar hosting rights for the 2019 world championships.

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Leicester reported from France.

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