Kenyan runners keep competing during doping bans

Lilian Mariita
AP
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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — For some Kenyan runners, a doping ban isn’t a total ban.

Benjamin Kiprop Serem bagged 50,000 Indian rupees ($740) for winning the Calicut Mini-Marathon in India on March 1, 2015, midway through his two-year ban for using the steroid nandrolone at the Beirut Marathon in 2013.

Bernard Mwendia Muthoni placed sixth in the Melaka River International Marathon in Malaysia last December, even though his two-year ban for a nandrolone byproduct runs to Nov. 15 this year.

That banned runners can compete speaks to loose policing of Kenya’s offshore running industry. Kenya’s athletics federation says it has 4,000 athletes registered in its database and concedes that it struggles to keep close track of runners who compete, and often train and live, overseas.

Before he was suspended in February following allegations that he solicited bribes from two athletes, Athletics Kenya CEO Isaac Mwangi said in an Associated Press interview that tracking down Kenyan runners who have tested positive abroad sometimes proves impossible. Many of the Kenyans caught doping weren’t registered with the federation, Mwangi said. Often, Athletics Kenya only became aware of them when word of their failed tests reached federation headquarters in Nairobi, he said.

“Many of these athletes … are caught in Mexico, some are in China, especially in Macau. Those are areas that are difficult to control,” Mwangi said. “When these athletes go there and get tested and they turn positive, that’s when we get to know who they are. Because we have a lot of athletes running all over the world.”

“Some of them left the country like 10 or so years ago, but they are still competing in different cities in Mexico, Beirut, and other cities,” he said. “The race directors, the managers, they need to be a bit more vigilant.”

Race directors failing to do due diligence are accepting racers even after the International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport’s governing body, has announced doping bans on its web site. By the latest AP count, based entirely on cases confirmed by the IAAF, 40 Kenyan runners have been banned for doping violations since the 2012 London Olympics.

The IAAF published Serem’s ban in its doping sanctions newsletter on March 28, 2014, nearly a full year before he raced in India.

The date of birth for Serem provided by the Calicut organizers — April 27, 1987 — matched that published by the IAAF. Still, race organizers told AP they didn’t know he was banned.

“We’ll look into it and see what can be done, and also ensure to take care of such cases in the future,” they told AP by email.

Muthoni’s ban, for a positive test in 2013 at a 10-kilometer race in Jakarta, Indonesia, was announced in the Dec. 8, 2015, edition of the IAAF newsletter. He raced the Melaka marathon 12 days later, registering his date of birth as May 29, 1987, Melaka race director Azmar Hamid said. That matches the birthdate published by the IAAF for the Muthoni who is banned.

Hamid told AP that he didn’t check whether competitors were serving doping suspensions. The marathon didn’t conduct drug testing, he said. It offered a top prize of 7,500 Malaysian ringgits ($1,820).

“Many Kenyans came,” Hamid said. “We registered them all.”

Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, banned athletes who continue to compete at sanctioned or government-funded events can have their suspensions extended.

Calicut organizers said that even though Indian athletics officials officiated at their 10K, they don’t believe their race falls under WADA’s rules.

“However, had we known Mr. Kiprop (Serem) had been banned, on doping grounds, we would’ve not allowed him to take part,” they wrote to AP.

The Melaka race is organized by the local state government and city council, with help from Malaysia’s athletics federation and the Malaysian tourism board among its sponsors, said Mohamad Fairuz Abdul Karim, another of the race organizers.

At other races, doping sanctions were announced too late for organizers to act.

Lilian Mariita competed for months in U.S. road races while provisionally suspended for doping. Athletics Kenya told her in an April 8, 2015, email to her agent that she tested positive for the banned endurance-boosting hormone EPO and should no longer compete.

But not until December was her definitive ban — since extended to eight years for a second failed drugs test — published in the IAAF newsletter or on its regularly updated list of suspended athletes.

Three days after the Athletics Kenya suspension, Mariita lined up at a half-marathon in St Louis, Missouri, and won $1,500 for first place.

“That’s disgraceful,” race organizer Nancy Lieberman told AP. “She’s obviously not going to give the money back.”

PHOTOS: Inside Kenya distance running training camp

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

LG Snowboard-Cross FIS World Cup
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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko
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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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