What you need to know:
- The athletes say NOCK officials failed to listen to their grievances right from the time of trials and residential training in Eldoret and Rio.
- NOCK mess started when they were forced to attend the trials in Eldoret despite their protest.
- Other athletes declined to go to Milele Hotel where they had been booked before they can travel to other destinations.
Some Team Kenya athletes decided to sneak into the country from Rio Brazil in protest against the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) officials.
The athletes, some who sought anonymity, accused Athletics Kenya of abandoning them in the hour of need when NOCK officials failed to listen to their grievances right from the time of trials and residential training in Eldoret and even in Rio de Janeiro.
The athletes said the mess in Rio did not begin with the haphazard travel arrangements and missing training kits from Nike, but it began when their protests against taking the national trials and residential training in Eldoret fell on deaf ears.
Apart from the new Olympic marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong, two times 3,000m steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi, sprinters and Kenya Sevens team, who arrived to a rousing welcome at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Friday, a number of athletes returned incognito.
Most athletes declined to board buses provided by the government, opting to use other means to their homes. Others declined to go to Milele Hotel where they had been booked.
Olympic champions David Rudisha (800m), Vivian Cheruiyot (5,000m) and Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase) and Olympic silver medallists Paul Tanui (10,000m) and Julius Yego (javelin) and another 10,000m team member Bedan Karoki among others sneaked into the country silently from Rio.
Rudisha came Saturday night followed by Cheruiyot on Sunday night. Yego and Kipruto arrived Monday afternoon unnoticed.
Instead of coming back home, some opted to travel to Europe to prepare for the resumption of Diamond League with most making their own separate travel arrangement back home.
“We don’t want people to hog publicity from our arrival when they have treated us badly,” said an athlete at the JKIA. “NOCK simply doesn't care about us since they know we shall still perform as they hog the limelight.”
One athlete after the other said the NOCK mess started when they were forced to attend the trials in Eldoret despite their protests.
“We complained to Athletics Kenya who promised to do something but nothing happened,” said an athlete.
“We allowed politics to take precedent and athletes suffered during the trials what we no warm up track closer to the stadium.”
KAZI MINGI FARM
The athletes said they protested residential training being held at Kazi Mingi farm, High Altitude Performance Training Centre, owned by NOCK chairman Kipchoge Keino but it all fell on deaf ears.
“The facilities there were not to the required standards…the weather conditions were also not put into consideration,” said another athletes.
“We were forced to look for areas to train as far as Kaptagat when it rained hence wasting a lot of time and transportation was a big issue.”
The most vocal athlete who protested the trials and residential camp being held in Eldoret was World javelin champion Julius Yego while most decided to keep quiet for fear of being victimised.
Yego would suffer when his air ticket went missing at the JKIA and it’s after a protest from the team that declined to board the plane that he finally got a boarding pass.
Yego had taken issue with NOCK for delaying the departure of his coach Joseph Mosonik, who was to leave the country a week later.
The athletes said nutrition was also not put into consideration with the menu quite predictable.
“At Kasarani, we had a variety and nutrition was valued but not at the residential training in Eldoret,” said another long distance athletes.
The conditions in camp forced many athletes to make technical appearances and only availed themselves few days to departure.
“The camp was half empty most of the time as most opted to train on their own…we had no training kits,” said another athlete.
“Sprinters suffered most as they had to relocate to the Kipchoge Keino Stadium whose altitude could not help them much.”
RESIDENTIAL TRAINING CAMPS
The athletes now want to have a say on residential training camps while preparing for championships like the Olympics, African Games or Commonwealth Games.
“Athletics Kenya should be left to decide on where we should train in future and not NOCK, whose officials have vested interests and (are) out to make financial gains as athletes suffer,” said another athlete. “There has been no controversy during major athletics championships.”
Athletes noted that this was the second time athletes are being treated 'badly' after the 2012 London Olympics debacle.
“We were taken to some camp in Bristol, London, (during 2012 London Olympics), against our wish and the results were bad….most of us decided to put behind the difficulties and perform in Rio,” said one of the medallists.
“We want proper auditing of the accounts and people told to explain how uniforms disappeared.”
The athletes also want the government to take action against NOCK officials for the haphazard travel arrangements that saw some coaches and athletes miss their air tickets.
They said it beats logic to have athletes leave for the Rio Games while their coaches are left behind.