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Team Kenya surely deserved much better from management during Rio olympics

OPINION
By Tom Mboya | August 24th 2016

The Games of the 31st Olympiad have drawn to a close, and as with previous editions, captured the attention of millions across the globe.

Kenya was no exception, as Team Kenya (#TeamKE) continue to break the mould, dazzling the world with their athletic prowess.

Sadly, off-the-field antics involving the Kenya squad have attracted as much media attention as our athletic accomplishments.

In one incident, it is alleged Michael Rotich, the Kenya track and field manager, requested money to give journalists, posing as representatives of athletes, advance notice of impending random drug tests, ostensibly because he knew the anti-doping testers.

Following these allegations, Mr Rotich was sent home, arrested, and recently granted bail, pending investigations.

In a separate incident, John Anzrah, a sprint coach, was sent home following allegations that he misrepresented himself as an athlete and gave a urine sample in yet another dope test scandal.

Officials discovered that his face did not match that on his accreditation, and raised the alarm. It was further alleged that he signed documentation in relation to the drug test, as revealed in a statement by the chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK), the legendary Kip Keino.

Away from doping scandals, the Kenya team to the Olympics was forced to endure further tribulations, no doubt causing an unnecessary distraction to the task at hand. Competitors in the Rio games complained of being issued with only one set of kit, in some cases, or none at all in others.

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This prompted sporting apparel provider Nike, the official sponsors of the Kenya team, to make an official complaint.

Nike had provided a more than ample consignment of training, competition, and leisure kit for the use of the entire squad. It remains unclear why, and indeed how, some athletes lacked the requisite equipment.

As if that were not enough, athletes also complained of a range of other management issues, ranging from allowances not being paid on time, to improper accreditation of officials.

Some athletes were not able to travel with their coaches, while others were not able to access the Olympic Village due to accreditation issues.

Reports also filtered back of a huge number of 'joyriders' accompanying the team, most of whom had no useful or official function to perform.

These joyriders diverted much-needed resources from the athletes and the management of the Kenyan Olympics squad.

When it comes to sports, and indeed the management of sports, this has in the past been viewed as a low priority: often sports dockets have been starved of necessary resources, and seen as inferior portfolios within government circles.

For this reason, sporting matters have not been treated with the seriousness they deserve, and management of this critical national resource left in the hands of political cronies or individuals lacking the management skills and passion to create an enabling environment for our athletes.

Such a shambolic mismanagement of our national affairs on the world stage cannot go unresolved.

The challenges we are experiencing in the management of our sports are indicative of a greater malaise: one where we have developed a culture that condones, protects and even rewards mediocrity and incompetence.

This creates an ideal environment for corruption, in its various permutations, to thrive in. In allowing this, we jeopardise our reputation in the community of nations, as these kinds if incidents have become far too commonplace.

In spite of these unfortunate incidents, and in far-from-ideal circumstances, #TeamKE still did us proud! Our athletes are the foremost Kenyan Ambassadors! They are a source of great pride for our Nation.

They work hard and train, often with little or no support from the Government, except when major international competitions roll around, creating opportunities for personal enrichment or officials or unwieldy delegations to foreign lands.

Our world-beating athletes endure tremendous hardship and go to great lengths and sacrifice to ensure they remain on top of their game.

This kind of patriotism ought to be rewarded by the full support of the Kenyan people, our government and leadership; and not only during major international competitions.

Indeed, Kenya is among the greatest sporting nations in the world, blessed with immense natural ability. In this day and age, however, natural ability is not enough: there is need to harness and invest in that ability consistently, to ensure to continued success of our athletes.

#TeamKE deserved better, and have been needlessly let down. The shame visited upon our nation by these antics is as regrettable as it is inexcusable!

What is important now is that we take corrective action, give our athletes the dignity and respect they deserve, and ensure the antics of Rio 2016 are not repeated.

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