POSTED: August 31st 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: The IOC must act over Kenya

Kenyan Olympics Athletics Manager Michael Rotich (right) at Nairobi Court on August 10, 2016 © Getty Images
Kenyan Olympics Athletics Manager Michael Rotich (right) at Nairobi Court on August 10, 2016 © Getty Images

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) During a recent television interview with Al-Jazeera, I was asked if 2016 had been the worst for the Olympic Movement in my almost 50 years of covering the Games. I confidently and, I think, justifiably answered that there had been several worse occasions, including particularly the massacre of the Israeli athletes in 1972, the boycotts at the following three Games as well as the Salt Lake City 'favours-for-votes' crisis of 1999.

In some ways, 2016 has been successful. The Summer Games in Rio had many impressive features and, at least, were staged without any major problems, albeit not without defects, chronicled after they ended by my colleague, Neil Wilson. However, the failure of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take a moral stance over Russia was lamentable, as was its unforgiveable refusal to allow the Russian whistle-blower and athlete Yulia Stepanova to compete in Rio. And then there was the embarrassment over the arrest on allegations of being involved in ticket scalping of Patrick Hickey, a leading member of the IOC Executive Board.

However, now is the time for the IOC to make up for its supine attitude over many issues during the last few months and act over the pressing problems in Kenya. The country's National Olympic Committee has been disbanded and two leading figures, its secretary general Francis Paul, and vice-chairman Pius Ochieng are being investigated with alleged mismanagement of the country's team in  Rio, where, incidentally, they had their best-ever Games with six gold medals but not apparently with much credit to some of its officials.

The IOC has quite rightly said that it is "extremely concerned" by the case and emphasised the importance of the independence of any National Olympic Committee, saying "it will not accept any action of interference from government authorities that would go against the basic principles and rules of the Olympic Charter". It added that if the "situation is not rectified" it might be "forced to consider protective measures as provided by the Olympic Charter".

This is all well and good. However, if the Kenyan government has been presumptuous in dismantling its National Olympic Committee, it is certainly the duty of the IOC to do something about Kenyan sport, which is in disarray. The country has had at least 40 athletes banned for doping offences in the last four years and Michael Rotich, the athletics team manager, was ordered home from Rio amid allegations, made by my colleagues on The Sunday Times in London, that he asked for bribes to warn competitors when they were to be drug-tested.

Nor does the Kenyan government come out of this well. The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) only permitted the country's competitors at the last minute to take part in Rio because the Kenyan Parliament mishandled passing a new law, drawn up to tackle the drug problems in the country.

Hassan Wario, the Kenyan Sports Minister, who disbanded his country's National Olympic Committee, also does not inspire much confidence with some of his fellow countrymen. Wesley Korir, the marathon runner and team captain in Rio, has called on him to resign.

What the IOC should do now is to send a task force to Kenya to sort everything out. Quite rightly before the Rio Games, it sent in officials to help the local organisers with ensuring that the Olympics could go ahead without serious problems.

Now it should do something about Kenya. Ideally, this group would be led by the IOC's autonomy delegate, who was appointed two years ago to ensure that the Olympic organisations have genuine independence from the state.

Unfortunately that person is under house arrest in Rio. It is Patrick Hickey.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Olympics · John Goodbody · Rio 2016

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