When Shieys Chepkosgei admitted in open court that he was born a man, the revelation dropped like a bombshell that has now left the athletic fraternity in a frenzy.
Chepkosgei, who had been arraigned in court for impersonation, told the Chief Magistrate’s court his name was actually Hillary Kiprotich.
“I was identified as male in primary school, but when I became an athlete, I registered myself as female,” he told a shocked courtroom.
His family told the Sunday Standard that as a boy, Kiprotich developed a habit of wearing women clothing as a boy, which left them disturbed with unanswered questions.
Rosebella Chepchumba, Kiprotich’s elder sister, revealed that he was the last born in the family of five. Growing up, she always knew him as a boy.
Their mother died in 1993 when her siblings were still young and being the firstborn, she was tasked with the responsibility of taking care of them.
“I used to bathe him when he was young and he was a normal boy with no abnormality whatsoever,” said Chepchumba.
She, however, said he would often dress in his sisters’ clothes, avoiding his shorts and trousers.
The family that hails from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County, was taken by surprise when they learned of the incident at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) when Hilary was busted posing as a nurse.
According to Chepchumba, they were not aware Kiprotich had studied nursing.
“I do not know much about what has been happening in his life. I do not even know where he lives. I only learned about this whole incident when I got the report that he had been arrested and taken to Eldoret police station,” she said.
When asked about how Kiprotich enrolled into athletics as a woman, Chepchumba said she learned about that when he went home around two years ago with medals, saying he had won. The family had also learned that he had been listing himself for races as a woman.
“We wanted to know how he got to register as a female athlete, but that was his big secret. Our advice fell on deaf ears and he kept away from home. We only saw him once or twice a year,” Chepchumba said.
The shock came two years ago when Kiprotich went home with a man who introduced himself as his girlfriend. “We were very shocked about Kiprotich’s decision to take a step that our community could never accept. But our pleas could not dissuade him,” Chepchumba said.
Kiprotich’s brother Lazarus Kipruto said that until his arrest, he had not met his brother for two years and was shocked when he learned that he was in police custody.
He only knew that Kiprotich, pretending to be a woman, worked as a house help to an old woman in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, since 2014. He later relocated to Kimumu in the outskirts of Eldoret town to work as a house help, still passing himself off as a woman.
“We were used to him acting as a woman. He would even dress in skirts and other women clothes when going to church or school events when he was young,” he said.
Kipruto, a teacher, said he did not know Kiprotich was participating in local and international races as a woman.
“I was taken by surprise when I saw his photos on social media platforms showing him with medals which he has never brought home. Most of our family members have never seen the medals, nor held any celebration to welcome him home after any big win,” he said.
Abraham Mutai, the Chairman Athletics Kenya (AK), distanced the federation from Kiprotich, saying he was not registered with them either as a male or a female athlete.
Mr Mutai said he was informed by athletes that Kiprotich had been participating in inter-county sports events as a woman. He said the federation will act on the issue once the case is out as such practices have placed athletics Kenya in bad light.
Kiprotich was found impersonating a nurse at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret on June 14. He is said to have interned at the hospital for two days. The investigating officer told the court that Kiprotich was dressed in nurse’s uniform complete with a badge and was working at the emergency section when other nurses became suspicious and reported him to the police after they failed to find her name on the interns register.
Kiprotich, who had been arraigned in court on June 17, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was slapped with a bond of Sh100,000 or a cash bail of Sh50,000.
However, he could not raise the amount and was held at the Eldoret Women Prison. To this point, he was still Chepkosgei.
But when prison officers conducted a routine search, they found that he was male. He was taken to the prison’s dispensary and the doctor who examined him declared that he was indeed male.
His birth certificate, passport and national identification card, which were produced in court, identified him as a woman.
The investigation officer told the court Kiprotich has participated in marathons in various countries, including Malaysia, Morocco and Tanzania, as a female athlete.
He has won three medals so far. he court ruled that Chepkosgei be remanded for 10 days pending investigations over her birth certificate, identification card and passport.
He will also be taken to MTRH for a medical examination to determine her gender.
The case will be mentioned on June 27.