Runners call for resignation of Kenyan athletics chiefs

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The Independent Online

Seven of Kenya's top runners, led by five-time world champion Paul Tergat, have called for the resignation of the Kenya Amateur Athletics Association board as well as the manager and head coach of the cross-country team.

At a news conference after their return from the World Cross-Country Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal, Tergat and several of his his teamates said members of the KAAA as well as team manager Patrick Kiambata and coach Dan Muchoki had mistreated and insulted them.

"We were grilled like thugs," he said. "The organisation turned not only into dictators but also liars of some sort. It (the resignations) is the best thing."

The selection process of Kenya's national athletics and cross-country teams has been dogged by controversy since their disappointing showings at the World Athletics Championships in August in Seville, Spain.

Tergat, the cross-country team captain, said Kiambata and Muchoki summoned the runners to a 1am meeting on the day of the 12-kilometer race and treated them "like criminals."

Tergat failed in his bid to win an unprecedented sixth world title in Portugal, finishing third behind Belgium's Mohammed Mourhit and Ethiopia's Assefa Mezgebu in the individual race. Kenyan team won the senior men's team title.

Tergat said the problems started in Kenya during the selection process when a final team of seven athletes was announced by the KAAA two weeks before the process was completed.

The athletes were upset that they did not know which of the seven would be running until two hours before the race began. Team competition is limited to six members per country.

Charles Kamathi was eventually selected over Joshua Chelanga, who normally runs alongside Tergat.

At Tuesday's news conference, Tergat was flanked by five members of Kenyan team including Paul Koech, Patrick Ivuti, Wilberforce Talel, Abraham Cherono and Chelanga.

Kamathi was the only team member sent to Portugal who did not attend the conference. Tergat said Kamathi, who finished fifth among the six Kenyan runners and placed seventh in the individual race, was still abroad.

The athletes said they would still work with the KAAA to prepare for the Sydney Olympic Games in September, but insisted the situtaion was worrisome.

"The government should intervene and remove everyone from the office (of the KAAA) because they have failed their duties," said Australian-based Daniel Komen, the world record holder at 3,000 meters.

KAAA chairman Isaiah Kiplagat told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the association had not handled the situation badly.

"We do not just have to name six - we can name 10, and when we are there we continue to do our assessment and selections," he said. "We can enter people up to 30 minutes before the race."