How Sports officials cheated top athletes in US visa debacle

Friday, July 15th, 2022 00:40 | By
Amina Mohamed
Sports CS Amina Mohamed. PHOTO/File

Details have emerged of how cunning officials at the Ministry of Sports mysteriously smuggled 32  joyriders to the United States on Friday last week.

The ministry’s action happened at the expense of athletes picked to represent the country at the World Athletics Championships among them Africa’s fastest man, Ferdinand Omanyala who only left last night.

People Daily learnt that the unscrupulous State officers ensured the joyriders were slotted in the first batch of the Kenyan contingent, which jetted out of the country on Friday last week to evade detection from hawk-eyed US embassy officials, who were in charge of the issuance of visas.

Top athletes including new sprints Omanyala and Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei, were among those slotted in the final batch, which was to leave the country mid this week, only to be locked out after the US embassy questioned the excess number of the delegation. While AK had presented a list of 80 athletes and officials to the ministry for the processing of visas, the list submitted to the US embassy contained 112 names, 32 of them unknown to the athletics body.

Yesterday, the US embassy appeared to point fingers at the ministry, suggesting that it might have manipulated the list of the contingent to the games occasioning the visa hitches.

A source at the Embassy who requested anonymity because of diplomatic etiquette told People Daily to establish from Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed the reasons behind the visa hitches. The source said CS should give the date the applications were made, when the visas were received and the number of applicants.

Last batch

“The reason why the ministry officials included Omanyala and Tuwei in the last batch was meant to hoodwink embassy officials since they knew the star sprinter and the federation President could not be left out,” the source explained.

However, Amina downplayed the visa debacle terming it a “normal” challenge.

While confirming that Omanyala had received his visa and was on his way to the US, Amina said visa issuance is a Government responsibility where one undergoes a rigorous process before the document is issued.

“I have been in contact with Omanyala. I was on phone with him the whole of yesterday. He will be on a flight at 6 pm. We have also secured a second visa for him to travel to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games,” Amina said.

The scandal is not new as a similar one hit the country during the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. In the Rio scandal, Government officials stole air tickets and sold them to non-athletes, forcing them to seek alternative means to travel to the Brazillian city.

A source well versed with the goings-on told People Daily that the American Embassy refused to issue extra visas after it emerged that the list given by the ministry had exceeded the 80 that was approved by AK.

A highly placed source revealed that some ministry officials assigned to follow up on the visas issue colluded with some individuals to have them included as part of the entourage.

Travel dates

The 32 individuals, according to the source, parted with Sh2 million each for their names to be included in the list.

Athletics body had planned to have the team fly out in two lots on Monday and Tuesday but was forced to reschedule the travel dates due to the visa debacle.

Other members stranded in Nairobi are team manager Rono Bunei, physiotherapists John Muraya, Jessica Shiraku and Japheth Kariakim and team doctor Victor Bargoria.

The men’s 100m heats will be staged Friday from 12.30 pm (US time) or 10.30 pm Kenyan time.  As one of the top-ranked athletes in the 100m, Omanyala will not be subjected to the heats.

“Onto the next flight to Oregon. I am positive that I will compete. Thanks so much for your support and prayers,” Omanyala said on his Twitter handle upon receiving his visa from the Ministry of Sports, who helped him secure the travel document.

Omanyala was due to take a Qatar Airlines flight at 6 pm yesterday, to arrive in Portland, US at 10.30 am Kenyan time, barely two and a half hours to the start of the 100m heats.

Omanyala was lucky to be given a bye to the heats by virtue of his world ranking this season hence he will have almost eight hours of rest on arrival before the heats.

 “I will also be competing in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. I am looking forward to making all Kenyans proud,” Omanyala added.

“We are very pleased to secure both US and UK visas for all our athletes including our sensational athlete @Ferdiomanyala,” said the Ministry of Sports on its official Twitter handle. “Our athletes are now set for both the World Championships and Commonwealth Games!”

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