Athlete, coach jailed for trying to paint Kenya as a haven for doping

Elias Kiptum Maindi and Paul Kibet Simbolei were found guilty of giving false information about the country's top athletes. [iStockphoto]

A retired athlete and a coach were on Tuesday sentenced for fabricating documents with a view of tarnishing Kenya's image as a doping haven.

The athlete, Elias Kiptum Maindi, was jailed for one and a half years while the coach, Paul Kibet Simbolei, was sentenced to one year of imprisonment.

Kiptum and Kibet were found guilty of giving false information about the country's top athletes and sharing the same with foreign media.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) court magistrate Njeri Thuku found that the Director of Public Prosecution Renson Ingonga had proved that the two had forged documents claiming that doping was being promoted and encouraged by several state agencies in the country.

She sentenced Kiptum to one and a half years in prison for 12 counts and one year for the 13th count.

Kibet will serve six months in jail for 12 counts and one year for the 13th count.

All counts will run concurrently, meaning they ought to serve the highest.

The magistrate found that the duo aimed to have Kenya suspended from participating in the Olympics.

Kiptum and Kibet committed the offences on diverse dates between September 16, 2019 and April 18, 2020.

“Paul was not remorseful about the offence. It is his assertion that he was lured into committing the offence by Elias but believed he was collecting information for research,” Njeri said.

Kibet was however set free after the magistrate ruled that he had already served two years prison term during the pre-trial detention.

In a judgment rendered by Thuku, the court ruled that the prosecution had presented adequate evidence and proved beyond reasonable doubt that Kibet and Kiptum conspired to forge information on doping about athletes with the aim of tarnishing Kenya’s image in the athletics world.

The duo were initially arraigned in court alongside John Katio Maluni who passed on through a road accident during trial.

In her ruling, the magistrate said: “It is important to set the record straight, Kenya has never had state-sponsored doping. That was the picture the two intended to portray about the sport. The pieces of the puzzle put together during the trials of Elias and Paul together with the help from influential and powerful people outside Kenya’s borders attempted to present evidence that the government sponsored doping. The intention being Kenya competes and wins using performance-enhancing drugs.” 

The court found Kibet guilty of only one count of conspiracy to cause injury. The magistrate, however, noted that the coach has been in custody since he was arraigned, while misdemeanour carries a maximum of two years.

The court ruled that he had therefore served for a period of the offence and was released from custody.

Kiptum’s case carried the gravity of the reputational damage to Kenya if indeed the documentary had aired. The magistrate ruled that he was not suitable for a non-custodial sentence and was sentenced to one and a half years and given a right to appeal within 14 days.