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Kip Keino, Kenyan Olympic legend, hands himself over to police in corruption case

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Running great Kip Keino handed himself over to police in Kenya on Thursday and is under arrest, set to face charges of corruption and abuse of office that threaten the reputation of one of track and field’s most revered figures.

The 78-year-old Keino, former Kenyan sports minister Hassan Wario and two other former sports ministry officials surrendered to police to meet a 6 a.m. deadline.

They are due in court Friday to plead to the charges relating to the misuse of more than half a million dollars meant to fund Kenya’s team at the Rio Olympics. Keino was president of the Kenyan Olympic committee at the time.

Keino is a two-time Olympic champion, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee and was one of the first athletes to be inducted into track and field’s half of fame in 2012.

He was the forerunner for generations of Kenyan distance-running champions, winning the 1500m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

He is accused of playing a role in the misappropriation of more than $545,000 of government money set aside for Kenyan athletes at the Rio Games two years ago. Keino and six other current and former Olympic and government officials were accused by prosecutors of the embezzlement of more than $200,000 and misuse of more than $300,000.

Relating to the misuse, prosecutors allege the seven wasted more than $150,000 on unused air tickets to Rio, overpaid allowances amounting to nearly $150,000, and incurred tens of thousands of dollars of other expenditure on “unauthorized persons” — people who were not Olympic officials or athletes.

The Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya reported that Keino will be charged with giving his son nearly $25,000 of Team Kenya’s money for an air ticket to Brazil and spending money in Rio. The exact charges against the four who reported to police Thursday morning will be published when they appear in court.

Three other officials, current Olympic committee secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul, Rio team manager Stephen Arap Soi and former sports ministry official Richard Ekai, appeared in court Monday. They were charged with multiple counts of corruption and abuse of office. They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail, with a judge saying the trial of all seven would start Nov. 16.

Keino, possibly Kenya’s most respected sportsman, handed himself over to police at about 5.30 a.m., the Daily Nation reported, to beat the deadline.

Wario is a former member of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet and now the ambassador to Austria, meaning the corruption case reaches upper levels of the government. Ekai, his former sports ministry colleague, was recently appointed Kenyan ambassador to Russia.

Details of a chaotic Kenyan Olympic trip emerged in 2016, with allegations of joy riders being given thousands of dollars in allowances and hundreds of thousands of dollars and equipment meant for Kenyan athletes disappearing.

Despite that, Kenya finished second in the track medals table and had its most successful Olympics.

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Pole vaulter, 84, sets her sights on more records

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn’t putting her pole down anytime soon.

Flo Filion Meiler left Thursday for the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor in Poland, where she’ll compete in events including the long jump, 60-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, pentathlon and pole vault, for which she’s the shoo-in.

The petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont, said she feels more like 70 than nearly 85.

“But you know, I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I’ve been training six days a week because I knew I would really get my body in shape,” she said last week, after track and field training at the University of Vermont.

But she literally won’t have any competition in the pole vault in the championships, which runs March 24-31 in Torun, Poland. She is the only one registered in her age group, 80-84, for the sport, for which she set a world record at age 80. In the men’s pole vault, nine men are listed as competing in that age group.

Meiler said she the events she likes the best are the hurdles and the pole vault – one of the more daring track and field events, in which competitors run while carrying a fiberglass or composite pole, brace it against the ground to launch themselves over a high bar, and land on a mat.

“You really have to work at that,” she said. “You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it’s challenging.”

Meiler is used to hard work. She grew up on a dairy farm, where she helped her father with the chores, feeding the cattle and raking hay. In school, she did well at basketball, took tap and ballroom dancing, and, living near Lake Champlain, she water skied.

Meiler, who worked for 30 years as a sales representative for Herbalife nutritional supplements, and her husband, Eugene, who was a military pilot and then became a financial analyst, together competed in water skiing.

“Many times when I did water ski competition I was the only gal in my age group,” she said.

She’s a relative newcomer to pole vaulting and track and field, overall. At age 60, she was competing in doubles tennis with her husband in a qualifying year at the Vermont Senior Games when a friend encouraged her to try the long jump because competitors were needed.

“That was the beginning of my track career,” she said, standing in a room of her home, surrounded by hundreds of hanging medals. She took up pole vaulting at 65.

Athletics has helped her though some hard times, she said. She and her husband adopted three children after losing two premature biological babies and a 3-year-old. Two years ago, their son died at age 51.

And she desperately misses her training partner, a woman who started having health problems about five years ago and can no longer train. It’s tough to train alone, she said, and she hopes to find a new partner.

“She’s incredibly serious about what she does,” said Meiler’s coach, Emmaline Berg. “She comes in early to make sure she’s warmed up enough. She goes home and stretches a lot. So she pretty much structures her entire life around being a fantastic athlete, which is remarkable at any age, let alone hers.”

And it has paid off, said Berg, an assistant track coach at Vermont.

Berg herself first started following Meiler 10 years ago while she was a student at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, watching her at the annual Dartmouth Relays.

“She was like a local celebrity,” she said.

Setting a record at age 80 with a 6-foot (1.8-meter) pole vault at the USA Track and Field Adirondack Championships in Albany, New York, while her husband watched, Meiler said, was one of her happiest days.

“I was screaming, I was so happy,” she said.

The overall world record for women’s pole vaulting is 16.6 feet (5.6 meters), according to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Meiler turns 85 in June, when she’ll head to the National Senior Games in New Mexico.

That will put her in a new age group, in which she hopes to set even more records.

Meiler’s athletic achievements are remarkable and something to be celebrated, said Dr. Michael LaMantia, director of the University of Vermont Center on Aging.

Pole vaulting clearly isn’t for everyone of her age, but in general, activity should be, LaMantia said.

“She can serve as a role model for other seniors,” he said.

Amateur boxing president steps aside during IOC inquiry

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Olympic boxing under investigation by the IOC, the president of the sport’s governing body said on Friday he was stepping aside to let an interim leader take charge.

Gafur Rakhimov sai d he was not resigning as AIBA president, however, and did not call for new elections.

Rakhimov’s status on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list as an alleged heroin trafficker is part of an inquiry by an International Olympic Committee-appointed panel.

The panel will update the IOC executive board next week in Lausanne, Switzerland. AIBA could be derecognized by IOC members in June.

The IOC halted planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic boxing tournaments and blocked AIBA officials from contacting organizers in Japan.

“The allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies,” Rakhimov said. “I trust that the truth will prevail. Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above boxing, and as president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.”

Under AIBA statutes, an interim president is picked from among the five vice-presidents, who include several Rakhimov supporters. The executive committee is due to meet by telephone this weekend. The interim leader can serve only a maximum 365 days before fresh elections, however, meaning that arrangement can’t last through to the Tokyo Olympics.

When Rakhimov was elected last year, his supporters pushed for a plan to allow the president to step aside while still retaining key influence and being able to return at any time, but that was defeated.

It’s not clear if Rakhimov’s departure would be enough to calm the IOC, which has also criticized AIBA over how fights are judged, anti-doping measures, and its debts.

The IOC could try to host an Olympic boxing tournament without AIBA, and some national boxing officials have tried to form a group which could help the IOC stage the event.