NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A magistrate ruled Wednesday that Kenya’s track and field manager can be held for 28 days while police investigate allegations that he helped cover up doping for cash.
Michael Rotich was sent home from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics by Kenyan authorities after the British newspaper The Sunday Times reported allegations that he agreed to take a 10,000-pound ($13,000) bribe in exchange for helping athletes beat doping tests.
Police initially asked that he be held for seven days, but they later requested a longer period in order to complete their investigation.
In issuing the order, magistrate Christine Njagi called doping a serious offense that needed to be investigated.
Prosecutor Duncan Ondimu told Njagi that Rotich was arrested Tuesday at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon his arrival from Brazil, and police have not had time to conduct and conclude their inquiry.
Rotich’s lawyer, Ham Lagat, said the evidence against his client “is not strong enough.”
“It is tenuous, it is whimsical evidence,” Lagat said. “It is about a video, it is about a newspaper, it could be a gutter press,” he added.
The Sunday Times reported that Rotich told its undercover reporters who were posing as coaches that he could protect doping athletes from doping tests in exchange for a payoff. Rotich reportedly said he could protect athletes from doping controls because he is a senior track federation official in the region and knew when the official testers would be targeting athletes, according to the newspaper.
Athletes aren’t supposed to be tipped off in advance of tests to ensure that they don’t try to avoid them or manipulate their samples to appear clean.
Kenya’s anti-doping program has been under scrutiny ahead of the Rio Games, with the World Anti-Doping Agency removing the country from its “non-compliant” list on the opening day of the Olympics. At least 40 of the country’s track and field athletes have been banned since the 2012 Olympics. Four senior officials at Kenya’s track federation have been suspended by track’s governing body after being accused of trying to corrupt the anti-doping system.
Associated Press Television News Producer Khaled Kazziha contributed to this report.