The lawyer probing alleged corruption and covering up of doping offences in Kenya’s national athletics federation has received “many” offers of people wanting to provide evidence, he told AFP on Wednesday.
Sharad Rao, formerly Kenya’s deputy prosecutor, was appointed by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) Ethics Commission on Monday, to investigate three top Athletics Kenya (AK) officials, suspended due to graft allegations.
After just one full day on the job, Rao said he was pleased by the level of public support – and offers of help to ensure the inquiry is effective.
Many in Kenya fear doping is rife among their top class runners, who have been the source of enormous national pride.
“There has been a tremendous amount of goodwill, and from among the many messages I have received from people who have actually welcomed the inquiry and said they were prepared to come forward with information,” he told AFP. “So with that kind of cooperation, I think will make my job easier.”
Kiplagat, who led the national athletics federation for more than 20 years, was suspended along with his vice-president David Okeyo and former treasurer Joseph Kinyua over suspicions they had diverted sponsorship money from multinational sportswear giant Nike and subverted anti-doping controls, charges they all deny.
Their suspension was the latest hammer-blow to global track and field, with the IAAF ethics commission suspending them in the “interests of the integrity of the sport”.
Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper alleged last month that Okeyo, along with two other then-unnamed officials, had siphoned off $700,000 (650,000 euros) out of the federation’s bank account from a sponsorship deal between the national association and Nike.
3rd Kenyan official, Joseph Kinyua, ex Treasurer of Athletics Kenya & Kenya Team Leader at the 2015 World Championships, also suspended
— Dan Roan (@danroan) November 30, 2015
“The allegations which have been made… are very serious and warranted the investigation,” Rao said.
Kenya, under scrutiny amid allegations of widespread doping in world athletics, this month announced the establishment of an anti-doping agency, with the aim of easing concerns over the east African country’s internal anti-doping policy.
Dozens of Kenyan athletes have been suspended or banned since 2012 after testing positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs, among them marathon star Rita Jeptoo.
Rao also called on whistleblowers to come forward from among the country’s athletes and officials to provide information.
“Cooperation is really necessary,” Rao said. “Cooperation and willingness — like the athletes themselves — to come forward to tell us honestly what they know and what has been happening, without being vindictive against any of the three officials.”
IAAF president Sebastian Coe announced Thursday that he had stepped down from his paid role as an ambassador for Nike to focus more on cleaning up world track and field's beleaguered governing body.
"It is clear that perception and reality have become horribly mangled," said Coe. "I've stepped down from my ambassadorial role with Nike, which I've had for 38 years."
The situation was "not good for IAAF and not good for Nike", according to Coe.
Coe, unpaid as head of track and field's world governing body, received around 142,000 euros a year for his global ambassadorial role for Oregon-based Nike.
The Briton, a two-time Olympic gold 1500m medallist, is accused of lobbying disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to hand Eugene the 2021 world championships.
Bjorn Eriksson, who led a rival bid by Gothenburg for the 2021 championships, said Coe telephoned him on Wednesday to say it had been wrong to give the event to Eugene without a formal bidding process, The Times reported.
Coe insisted, however, that he had not been responsible for the decision that was made in April.
"I don't believe it was a conflict of interest," Coe stressed.
The decision to step down from Nike "was purely on the need to focus on challenges ahead with my colleagues and particularly the executive teams here at (IAAF) headquarters", he said.
The job at hand, Coe said, "needs an unflinching focus and the 'noises off' are clearly a distraction and I can see that".
Coe added, however, that he had sought advice from the IAAF Ethics Commission, who said the Briton could have continued in his Nike role as long as he "clearly and consistently declared all my interests".
Eriksson also said Coe had indicated that the Eugene award was being investigated by French police as part of a corruption inquiry into the IAAF leadership of Diack, who stood down in August.
Diack is also under investigation over allegations that he took bribes from Russian officials to cover up positive drug tests by athletes.
"If I understand Sebastian Coe correctly, he said, 'I agree that the procedure wasn't correct', but he claims he wasn't involved in this, others are," Eriksson said.
Coe had been a strong supporter of Eugene's bid for the 2021 championships and was part of the IAAF council that voted this year to abandon the normal bidding process.
Nike, which was founded in Eugene, was also a powerful backer of the bid. And the BBC said Tuesday it had seen an email in which a Nike executive said Coe had assured him he would "reach out" to Diack on behalf of Eugene.
Rugby Sevens is set for an exciting start to a game-changing season as the 2015/16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series sprints into action next week (December 3-5), with Olympic legend Michael Johnson.
The four time gold medallist will star as a special guest of HSBC at the opening tournament in Dubai, to celebrate the start of a series that will culminate in Rugby Sevens being played at the Olympics for the first time at Rio 2016.
During his Dubai visit Johnson will meet with both Men’s and Women’s teams, including the USA, to pass on his experience and advice ahead of the landmark season
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With rugby continuing to grow as a global force following a hugely successful World Cup in London, the series, which kicks off in Dubai on the 3rd December, is being billed by long term rugby supporter HSBC as a golden opportunity for the development of the sport.
Ahead of the trip, Johnson said: “I’m looking forward to heading to Dubai, meeting the sport’s fans and, of course, the players.
"From all my years in athletics, I know just what it means to compete for your country at the highest level, particularly in an Olympic Games.
"The start of this season is a huge moment for them and it’s a huge moment for the sport.”
“Dubai, as the starting block for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, is sure to be a supercharged tournament that will set the tone for ten ground breaking months of rugby, so I can’t wait to get involved.”
This year’s series already represents a major turning point for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Firstly, the Series has grown to ten locations worldwide; joining the iconic and ever popular events in Hong Kong and Dubai and well-established venues in London, Wellington and Las Vegas are the new host cities of Cape Town, Sydney, Vancouver, Singapore and Paris.
HSBC is also the first-ever title sponsor of the Women’s World Series, taking place in conjunction with the men’s series.
HSBC is a long term partner of Rugby Sevens and today Giles Morgan, Head of Sponsorship and Events at HSBC, spoke about the significance of this season in particular: "HSBC has been a committed supporter of rugby around the world, but this feels like a pivotal moment for the game.
"The opportunity over the next 10 months is huge. World Rugby, unions and sponsors are committed to converting the opportunity.
"The gold medal for rugby will be to use Rio 2016 as a catalyst to drive even greater growth, participation and engagement in the game."
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, the first leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, takes place from Thursday 3rd December to Saturday 5th December.
Over 100,000 sports fans are expected to walk through the gates at the Sevens Stadium across the three days of world class competition.
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