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Punish those out to sabotage Kenya's sports

By The Standard | August 16th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

After ruing the missed opportunities in the gold haul presented by gymnastics and swimming at the Rio Olympics and the bad news of the last one week, there was something to celebrate about as Kenya's flag was hoisted and the rendition of the national anthem rent the air in the Maracana Stadium on Sunday night.

Kenya is proud of Jemima Sumgong for winning gold in the women's 42-km race, Vivian Cheruiyot, Paul Tanui and Hyvin Jepkemoi for winning silver in the 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase respectively. We look forward to the heroics of Ezekiel Kemboi, Asbel Kiprop, Julius Yego and David Rudisha.

Yet these sweet victories and great expectations cannot mask the shame and embarrassment that continues to follow our sports. Last week's expulsion of John Anzrah, a coach, for impersonating an athlete and the earlier recall of Michael Rotich, the team manager, over allegations of seeking Sh1.3 million from undercover reporters to help athletes cheat doping tests should force us to think long and hard about the management of sports in the country.

The underwhelming manner in which this has been done leaves a lot to be desired. It is as if collectively, we feel that sports count for much less than it is worth. Yet, other than wildlife, Kenya's identity is associated more with athletics.

The shambolic handling of the team should therefore anger us sufficiently. No doubt, the Government has invested a lot in sports; our sportsmen are rewarded for their hard work with cash rewards and State commendation and even a much-coveted visit to State House. Yet it could be that for all these well-meaning gestures; the cash token, the prizes, a State reception including a photo opportunity with the President, sports is held hostage by a cartel motivated not by the spirit of the sport by ulterior motives.

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And it is not that there have been no attempts to right the wrongs. Far from it. Following the depressing show at the 2012 London Olympics, MPs went on a fact-finding mission and submitted a report that lay the blame squarely on the National Olympic Committee and the Sports ministry.

If for nothing else, punitive action should be taken to redeem sports and assure aspiring athletes that the things will be different.

Rio olympics Jemima Sumgong Vivian Cheruiyot athletics doping
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