BERLIN (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee froze financial support to Kenya on Thursday after the country’s troubled Olympic Committee refused to make changes to its constitution – a decision that could lead to a ban.
The IOC said it would discuss the matter at its executive board meeting in Pyeongchang next week to decide on any further action.
The IOC wants a series of new regulations addressing issues of good governance within the country’ Olympic committee (NOCK) which has been dealing with problems regarding doping, mismanagement and political pressure for some time.
But the NOCK has yet to approve them.
“The IOC is extremely disappointed by the outcome of the National Olympic Committee extraordinary General Assembly which did not address governance issues in the appropriate way,” the IOC said in a statement.
“This goes against the tripartite agreement (IOC-NOC-Government authorities) reached in September 2016 in Lausanne and the roadmap and discussions with the NOC over the last few months.”
National Olympic committees divide up about $1.0 billion in IOC revenues every four years, their share from the marketing revenues of the Olympics while the IOC also supports thousands of athletes, coaches and staff through its Olympic solidarity fund.
Kenya last month accepted a local high court decision overruling last year’s government order to disband the Olympic committee (NOCK), after accusations it had poorly handled arrangements for the 2016 Rio Games.
Sports Minister Hassan Wario had ordered that NOCK be disbanded last August, saying the body had not arranged adequate accommodation and travel for the Olympic team in Rio, and had also mishandled other issues.
Despite problems in the build up to Rio, the East African nation enjoyed its most successful Olympics, winning six gold medals, six silvers and one bronze, all in track and field.
“The IOC is now putting on hold all payments of subsidies to the NOC of Kenya until a decision of the IOC Executive Board is taken at its meeting next week,” the IOC said.
A possible ban would mean Kenya would not be allowed to send a team to the Olympic Games with its athletes forced to compete under as independent athletes under the Olympic flag.
The country would also not take part in any IOC-sanctioned event or meeting and would also not benefit from IOC funding of any form, including athletes’ support and training.
NOCK secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul said the body’s officials were ready to quit “if this is in the interest of Kenyan sports”.
“Fighting all the time doesn’t make sense. We are ready to quit if this will be the solution of problems of Kenyan sports in general and Olympics in particular,” Paul told Reuters on Thursday.
Andrew Mudibo, President of Kenya Table Tennis Association, which is among the affiliates opposed to NOCK, welcomed the move by IOC.
“On behalf of NOCK affiliates we welcome the move that IOC has taken and we would like to see the executives resign from their positions,” he said.
The IOC suspended Kuwait in October 2015, accusing the government of interference in its national Olympic committee and its athletes competed as independents in Rio.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann and Elias Biryabarema, editing by Pritha Sarkar)