Kenya Olympic committee elections called off at last minute
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) The Kenyan Olympic committee elections were called off on Friday on the morning they were supposed to take place after one of the sports federations barred from voting obtained a court order.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Paul Tergat was set to be elected unopposed as the new head of the troubled National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) after incumbent Kip Keino, who has been in charge for nearly 20 years, failed to secure a nomination.
The elections were suspended after the taekwondo federation, whose officials were prevented from standing as candidates or voting, went to the Nairobi High Court. The court is expected to hear their case to be included in the elections on Monday.
The elections are being overseen by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy in Kenya, which barred Stephen Arap Soi and two of his colleagues from Kenya Taekwondo.
Soi is one of four Kenyan officials facing theft charges in a scandal over missing money and equipment at last year's Olympics, where he was the Kenya chef de mission. The criminal charges weren't the reason given for his exclusion, however. Election overseers said internal battles over the leadership of the taekwondo federation meant they couldn't vote or stand for positions. The cycling federation also wasn't allowed to take part in the elections.
The election delay will also cause more frustration for the International Olympic Committee, which has pressured NOCK to reform. It cut off funding to Kenya in March when Olympic officials refused to adopt a new constitution aimed at improving governance. NOCK eventually did approve the new constitution but the IOC also wants proper elections to be held before it sends any more money.
Kenyan sport is seeking to elect an entirely new leadership at NOCK after the Olympic committee was embroiled in the scandal over large amounts of missing kit provided by sponsor Nike for the team at the Rio de Janeiro Games. A report also alleged more than $800,000 meant to fund Kenyan athletes' stay in Rio went missing.
Soi, two NOCK vice presidents, and the former secretary general have been charged with theft of equipment. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges and are out on bail. Soi wants to stand for deputy secretary general while Francis Paul, another of the officials facing theft charges, was cleared late Thursday to stand for re-election as secretary general despite his criminal case. The two vice presidents implicated are not standing for re-election.
The elections are seen in Kenya as an opportunity to remove a discredited NOCK leadership that oversaw embarrassing Olympic preparations that took attention away from the team's success on the athletics track. Kenya finished second behind the United States on the medal table in track and field at the Rio Games, its best performance at the Olympics and reinforcing its reputation as the top distance-running nation in the world.
But the headlines have focused on allegations of wrongdoing by senior officials at both the Olympic committee and the athletics federation, and the country's ongoing problem with doping. It was announced last month that Rio marathon gold medalist Jemima Sumgong was the latest Kenyan athlete to fail a drug test.