Sydney 2000 Olympics champ Ng’eny quits AK post

CROWNING MOMENT: Noah Ng'eny beats revered Moroccan legend, Hicham El Guerrouj to the 1500m gold ...
CROWNING MOMENT: Noah Ng'eny beats revered Moroccan legend, Hicham El Guerrouj to the 1500m gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. PHOTO/Courtesy

Sydney 2000 Olympics men 1500m gold medallist, Noah Ng’eny has become the first elected Athletics Kenya (AK) official to resign from office in the wake of recent scandals that have rocked the federation while calling for a snap election to streamline the local governing body.

The retired world 1000m record holder, who was voted as the Athlete’s Representative in the 2013 elections, resigned Friday evening saying the current AK had lost the moral compass and goodwill to free the sport from corruption as well as tackling the doping menace that has seen 40 runners banned for proscribed substance use since 2012.

AK has come under intense pressure from within the country’s borders and internationally to clean its act and Ng’eny’s decision to quit robs it of formal support it enjoyed from the majority of its stakeholders-the athletes- in what will undoubtedly be interpreted as a move to deny it legitimacy to govern the sport.

The Sydney Olympics star and Kenya Defence Forces athletics head coach (one of the only two gold medallists Kenya minted in Australia alongside Reuben Kosgei who took the honours in the 3000m steeplechase) resignation increases the heat on the federation that has seen four top officials suspended by the IAAF Ethics Board to pave way for investigations into allegations of corruption and subverting the doping process although he was among the least vocal.

President Isaiah Kiplagat, Vice-President and IAAF Council Member, David Okeyo, ex-treasurer, Joseph Kinyua and last month, CEO Isaac Mwangi were suspended each for 180 days for allegations related to corruption and undue interference in the anti-doping protocol by demanding bribes from drug cheats to reduce or eliminate the bans.

Kenya has an April 5 deadline to conform to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code or risk international seclusion that could see the entire track and field team barred from the quadrennial summer sporting carnival where Ng’eny, who also serves as the local chief of Pace Management firm that represents among other luminaries, four-time world champion, Vivian Cheuriyot, made his name.

“I’m calling for snap elections to be held, because AK is flouting its Constitution not calling for an Annual General Meeting to replace President Kiplagat

“It has also failed to show commitment in the fight against doping and having too many joyriders in international competition trips thus financial wastage,” Ng’eny stated.

“AK is also losing goodwill from the sponsors leading to decline of local track and field meets,” he added.

Speaking on Citizen TV‘s Cheche weekly current affairs programme last month, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Arts, Dr. Hassan Wario, asked AK to conduct fresh elections to remove long-serving officials who he termed as ‘archaic and structurally inept’ in leading the country out of the doping cesspool.

Acting AK President, Lt. Gen (Rtd), Jackson Tuwei responded later in a statement after being frayed on air by citing the distinguished record of Kenyan runners at international competitions, most recently topping the world at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing as proof they were serving the sport.

Tuwei blamed Kenya’s struggle in meeting the WADA deadline on the ‘defective’ anti-doping law ‘that does not meet WADA’s threshold’ which is being prepared by the ministry to be presented to the country’s National Assembly for debate and enactment.

On Thursday, the country’s efforts to enact anti-doping legislation was thrown into confusion when a separate bill sponsored by 2012 Boston Marathon champion and Cherangany Member of Parliament, Wesley Korir was approved for the National Assembly to be debated and passed as the anti-doping law.

Wario’s ministry has another draft law that is also said to ready for Parliament and has the blessings of WADA.

Ngeny first came to international prominence by setting two world junior records in 1997 – 3:32.91 for 1500 m in Monaco and 3:50.41 for the Mile in Nice, and under the guidance of renowned manager and coach, the late Kim McDonald, his progression continued in 1998, improving his 1500 m time to 3:30.34 in Monaco.

On September 5, 1999, Ngeny set the current world record 2:11.96 over 1000 m in Rieti, Italy, breaking the 18 years-standing record 2:12.18 held by now IAAF president, Lord Sebastian Coe (Coe’s record was achieved in 1981).

His crowning career moment came on September 29, 2000 at the 1500 m final of 2000 Sydney Olympics where he line up against his great rival and retired Moroccan great, Hicham El Guerrouj, the world record holder and twice world champion who had only been defeated once since the previous Olympics, and was the overwhelming favourite.

The two rivals led the race going into the last lap of the final, El Guerrouj leading Ngeny. With less than 100 m to go, Ngeny started moving next to the leader, grabbing the lead with just 15 m to go. He held on until the finish line, causing one of the greatest upsets at the Sydney Olympics.

In the process, Ngeny set an Olympic record of 3:32.07, surpassing Sebastian Coe’s Olympics record of 3:32.53, set in 1984. El Guerrouj settled for silver in 3:32.32 and Ngeny’s compatriot Bernard Lagat, another Kenyan runner at that time, now a US citizen, took bronze in 3:32.44.

Noah Ngeny became the third Kenyan to win the 1500 m crown following Kip Keino (1968 Mexico City Olympics) and Peter Rono (1988 Seoul Olympics).

Additional reporting by Michael Bowen

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