AP

Report shows level of chaos in Kenya Olympic team

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — It’s truly astonishing that Kenya had its most successful Olympics ever at this year’s Rio de Janeiro Games after a government-ordered report revealed Tuesday the team’s chaotic preparation and management.

Among the many revelations in the 90-page report seen by The Associated Press: There was a brawl among members of the women’s rugby team over how their prize money should be split, the race walking team wasn’t given any track shoes, many of the athletes received uniforms that didn’t fit, while some didn’t get any and had to provide their own. And the medical officials tending to Kenya’s top sports stars in case of serious injury had to travel between the spread-out Rio venues on shuttle buses meant for journalists and which only went every 30 minutes — and sometimes took over an hour to get to an arena.

Also, members of the team began their final preparations for the world’s biggest sports event at a “High Performance Training Center” back home owned by the head of the Olympic committee, and which had a gym only big enough for three people to be in it at any one time, the report said.

But along with the incompetence and mismanagement on a grand scale — stunning for a country that outperformed the United States and Jamaica at last year’s athletics world championships — the report committee raised serious concerns over the possible misappropriation by senior sports officials of millions of dollars in money and athlete apparel provided by team sponsor Nike.

Those race walkers may not have got their Nike shoes because officials stole them.

The investigation was ordered at the end of August by the sports minister after allegations of corruption being rife at the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK), which was disbanded after Rio amid allegations that some of the $5.7 million Olympic budget was stolen.

Since the committee began its investigation, Kenya’s Olympic team leader has been charged with stealing $256,000 and three other senior Olympic committee officials – two vice presidents and the secretary general – face charges of stealing boxes of Nike apparel that were meant for athletes. One VP was arrested hiding under his bed in an apartment filled with brand new Nike equipment.

Because those cases are in court, the report couldn’t refer to them. But there was plenty more investigators could reveal.

They demanded that NOCK account for how it has used the $714,000 it’s been given every year by Nike since 2013, and where the $520,000 worth of apparel it received every year has gone. There don’t appear to be records.

Also, some of Kenya’s top athletes, including track and field world champions Asbel Kiprop, Julius Yego and Ezekiel Kemboi, may have been cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars in Nike bonuses due to them for winning medals at major competitions, bonuses they have not received from Kenyan officials, according to the report.

Despite the level of ineptitude, and allegedly worse, from those officials, Kenya somehow still won six golds and 13 medals in total in Rio. The track and field team was second on the table behind the U.S.

“The (investigating) committee would like to express concern over serious management inadequacies, poor planning and financial impropriety that affected what would have been an even greater performance,” the report said. “The committee would like to thank our sportsmen and women, their coaches and the honest officials for pulling off Kenya’s best ever performance at the Olympics despite the glaring management inadequacies that they had to endure.”

All of Kenya’s athletes, even their best, appeared to have been affected.

Yego, the javelin world champion who won silver at the Rio Olympics, was one example.

Yego was based at the so-called High Performance Training Center with the tiny gym in the buildup to the Olympics. He paid to join a nearby private gym that had better equipment. Yego was put in the high altitude town of Eldoret, where heavy rain at that time of year can wash away roads and he was often unable to travel to the stadium to train. Even when he got to the stadium, Yego had to deal with the fact that the javelin runway was about seven meters shorter than the standard length. When Yego got to the airport to travel to Rio, there was no plane ticket for him.

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Some other revelations in the report:

— The men’s rugby sevens team went on a three-week high-altitude training camp, but returned to the capital Nairobi for a week and then traveled to Rio, which is at sea level, two weeks before their competition, nullifying any benefit from the high-altitude training.

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Marathon runner Wesley Korir left a pre-Olympics training camp without permission to travel to Canada and run in the Ottawa Marathon as a pace-setter for his wife on May 29. The exertion led to him dropping out halfway through the Olympic marathon.

Korir said the Ottawa Marathon was before the training camp, and he was given permission to leave, according to the Daily Nation in Kenya. His wife, Canadian Tarah McKay, ran 2:35:46 with Korir pacing her, six minutes shy of Canada’s Olympic qualifying standard time.

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Following the women’s rugby team’s brawl in an airport on the way home from Rio, team officials lied and said the players were fighting “over a man.” Players later admitted it was over prize money promised them by the Kenyan government.

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The sports ministry paid nearly $900,000 more than it should have for 330 plane tickets to Rio, mostly for officials, after a company was hired just to do the bookings.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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AVP set to start season without Kerri Walsh Jennings

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BOSTON (AP) — The AVP said it has reached an agreement with “practically all the players” on a contract that will carry it through the 2020 Summer Games, even as a holdout by five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings threatens to deprive the domestic beach volleyball tour of its biggest name.

“I respect her decisions, and I wish her well,” AVP owner Donald Sun told The Associated Press. “But in the meantime, we’re just geared up. All the athletes that are signed are fired up to play Huntington Beach next weekend.”

Walsh Jennings did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment. But she told the AP in March that negotiations were “a work in progress” and that the two sides were “pretty far off.”

She also boycotted an AVP event last summer over experimental rules that she said weren’t discussed with the athletes.

Each of the other seven Americans who went to the 2016 Olympics has signed, Sun said, except for Brooke Sweat. Sweat, who failed to make it out of group play in Rio de Janeiro with teammate Lauren Fendrick, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Sun told the AP that the tour has “a four-year agreement with practically all the players, which is awesome.” The deal includes a minimum of eight events per season and prize money minimums that will increase by at least 50 percent over the term of the deal, he said.

“It was a few months of process, discussing with individual players, groups of players, discussing what concerns they had,” Sun said. “We all made it. I think we’re all pretty happy.”

Well, not everyone.

The rift with Walsh, a three-time gold medalist who won bronze with April Ross in 2016, was exposed when the tour released its 2017 schedule in March and her name wasn’t among the list of those expected to participate.

Sun told the AP this week that the tour is prepared to proceed without Walsh Jennings, who has missed events previous summers because of injury, childbirth or to play on the international tour that determines Olympic qualification.

“It didn’t seem to affect attendance, TV ratings, or viewership on line,” Sun said. “The AVP is not just one person or one athlete; if it was, it would be a very challenging business model.”

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