NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan sprint coach John Anzrah had only one thing on his mind when doping testers came calling at the Rio Olympics athletes’ village - a decent, free meal.
Instead of a fry-up, however, he found himself impersonating 800 meters runner Ferguson Rotich and being told to pee in a cup before drugs testers finally discovered the 52-year-old could not possibly be a world class athlete, ready for the biggest race of his life.
“On Wednesday, Ferguson Rotich gave me his card to use for breakfast,” Anzrah told a throng of reporters upon landing at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Rio on Friday.
“If I had an accreditation card, this would not have occurred. I did not steal the card, so I could not have impersonated anybody.”
The former runner said hunger had led him and other coaches to using the athletes’ accreditation to enter the off-limits athletes’ village where the dining hall is a feast for the senses with a vast variety of foods on offer, from Asian to Italian and Brazilian.
“We were operating in Rio like beggars, cooking for ourselves in a private house, but our athletes always helped us get food. We were only being given ordinary one-day passes. It was a shame,” he said.
He had just flown back from Rio after being expelled from the team and he could now face possible criminal charges at home.
Anzrah said it was pure coincidence that the testers came calling when he was about to have breakfast.
“I was confronted by three anti-doping guys, who demanded to know my nationality. They checked their list and confirmed Ferguson was due for random testing.”
“I told them I was not Rotich, but they would hear none of it. They led me into a room, demanded my urine sample but I declined, asking my colleague to alert Ferguson. He came with his passport to prove the card I used was his. I was then released.”
But the incident, instead of ending there, set in motion a chain of events that saw the coach being sent home instantly in disgrace and the International Olympic Committee looking into the affair and threatening with possible sanctions.
“I did not give urine sample. I am challenging them (Kenya officials) to prove that claim,” Anzrah said. “But I signed documents just to buy time for the athlete to arrive at the dope-testing center. I did that in the interest of the athlete.”
The IOC since has confirmed Anzrah was not tested and Rotich was tested a little later and was cleared to compete in his athletics event later on Friday.
Writing by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Neil Robinson and Susanna Twidale
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