AK CEO Mwangi, Okeyo Cleared Of Extorting Dope Cheats

Sep 06 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for sportpesa news

IAAF Board said there was no sufficient evidence to sustain the charges they asked bribes to reduce bans

Suspended AK CEO, Isaac Mwangi. PHOTO/Courtesy/Japan News

  • Mwangi who was suspended from his post in February 2018 was elated at the acquittal
  • The Panel formed a positive impression of Mwangi as a witness adding there were some inconsistencies in his testimony 
  • In his testimony, Mwangi denied that he had met Sakari and Manunga on October 16, 2015 in his office at Riadha House
  • Expelled IAAF Council Member Okeyo who is preparing to challenge his ban and fine at the Court for Arbitration for Sport 

NAIROBI, Kenya- The IAAF Ethics Board has cleared Athletics Kenya (AK) Chief Executive Officer Isaac Mwangi and former vice-president, David Okeyo from charges of extorting runners who failed dope tests.

In a 62-page ruling released on Thursday, the Board said there was no sufficient evidence to sustain the charges in a development that comes barely a week after Okeyo was banned from the sport in life and ordered to pay a USD150,000 fine.

“For the reasons given in the preceding paragraphs, the Panel has found that the allegations of extortion made against Mr Mwangi have not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“In the light of its conclusion that no breach of Ethics Code by Mr Okeyo or Mr Mwangi has been established in these proceedings, no discussions of sanction or costs arises,” the Board verdict read in part.

Mwangi was suspended from his post in February 2018 following the airing of a story by Associated Press where two athletes, Francesca Koki Manunga and Joy Zakari accused the federation boss of asking them bribes after they tested positive at the Beijing 2015 World Championships and was elated at the acquittal.   

 “I thank God and my family, especially my wife who has been there with me in the trying three years that this case has been going on.

“I’m happy and relieved to have been acquitted of these charges that were brought against me by people of ill-intent.

Undiminished commitment

“My commitment to sport in this country is undiminished and I salute all the athletes that have made this country proud,” Mwangi told SportPesa News following the development.

“I will communicate with you on the way forward following this judgement that exonerates me from wrongdoing and vindicates me,” Mwai who joined AK as its first CEO in August 2013 added.

In clearing Mwangi, the three-member Panel that heard and determined the case did not dismiss the claims against Mwangi by the two sprinters who were banned for four years each as untrue but noted they could not sustain a charge of extortion.

“The Panel cannot conclude on the record before it that the version presented by Ms Sakari and Ms Koki Manunga was untrue nor can it conclude that Mr Mwangi was lying when he denied their allegations.

“The Panel is thus left in the uncomfortable position of having heard contradictory evidence from witnesses that, in the main, it has found to be credible,” the judgement emphasised.

“It is precisely in such circumstances that the burden of proof determines the result of a case. In this case, the Prosecution bears the burden of proof, and the Panel accordingly concludes that the case against Mr Mwangi has not been made out,” it went on.

The Panel formed a positive impression of Mwangi as a witness adding there were some inconsistencies in his testimony and at times he hesitated, but the overall impression he gave was that he was telling the truth.

The Board ordered investigations against Mwangi led by former Director of Public Prosecution, Sharad Rao, and despite clearing the officials, the judgement urged the IAAF to address two critical issues based on the evidence adduced during the Panel hearing to the cases.

Unscrupulous officials

"The first given the power and authority of national athletics officials over athletes, there may be a risk that unscrupulous officials will seek to take improper advantage of athletes.

“The second is that should this happen, it is difficult for athletes to seek to vindicate their rights because often athletes are persons of limited or moderate means and often they are considerably younger and less experienced than sports administrators,” the Panel chaired by Catherine O’Regan stated.

“In the view of the Panel, the development of policies and practices to prevent the abuse of athletes, including well-publicised whistle-blower procedures within the sport, should be an urgent priority for the IAAF and its member federations, who should also take steps to monitor and assess the effectiveness of such policies and procedures,” it added.

In his testimony, Mwangi denied that he had met Sakari and Manunga on October 16, 2015 in his office at Riadha House and accordingly also denied that he had ever asked them for money to reduce the period of their suspension.

He testified that he had arrived back in Nairobi late the previous evening and had a busy day attending scheduled meetings.

He led three witnesses to confirm that he did not meet Sakari and Koki Manunga on that day, Charlotte Kurgoy, Executive Assistant to the CEO Mwangi, Viola Chepchumba, an administrative assistant at AK and Karen Gachahi, who works at the front desk at Riadha House.

A fourth witness, Emmanuel Rerimoi, the accountant at AK was, by agreement between the parties, questioned first by the Panel, and then by the Prosecutor and counsel for Mwangi.

Rerimoi confirmed that he had given the US Dollar cheques that constituted their prize money for the IAAF Bahamas World Relays competition to Sakari and Koki Manunga. He also confirmed that he gave them letters to enable them to open dollar bank accounts.

Expelled IAAF Council Member Okeyo who is preparing to challenge his ban and fine at the Court for Arbitration for Sport was charged with asking a KSh5m (USD50000) bribe in mid June 2015 through an intermediary from women 800m runner, Agatha Jeruto, who is serving a ban for banned blood booster, EPO.

“Over the next month, the intermediary called her on several occasions to ask her whether her fiancé would pay the money, but each time, she stated, she told him that the money would not be paid, and eventually the intermediary stopped calling her,” the judgement stated.

On September 22, 2015, she went to the hearing at the AK offices where Mwangi and a doctor were present.

Mwangi told her that she would be banned for four years and Jeruto asked why the investigation into the doctor has not happened and Mwangi told her it was for her to conduct her own investigation.

Jeruto stated that she was very angry, and had decided to contact the IAAF. The Panel noted that in her testimony before it that Jeruto confirmed in all material respects the statement that she had made to the Ethics Board in January 2018.