- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenyan police have detained and are investigating an Italian agent who represents top track and field athletes for facilitating doping, threatening another major drug scandal for the world’s No. 1 distance-running nation just a month ahead of the Olympics.

A court on Wednesday granted police more time to investigate Federico Rosa, who formerly represented Rita Jeptoo, the marathon champion who is the highest profile of dozens of Kenyan athletes banned in recent years for doping.

Rosa appeared in court Wednesday but was not charged. Senior Principal Magistrate Bernard Ochoi ordered Rosa to be held in custody for three days, despite protests from his lawyers, while police investigate further.

Federico Rosa and his father, Gabriele, run the Rosa & Associati athlete management company and work with a number of Kenyan track stars, including Asbel Kiprop, a three-time world champion and former Olympic champion in the 1,500 meters. Kiprop has not been implicated in any doping, and authorities have not named any athletes involved in the investigation.

Federico Rosa is accused of conspiracy to cause injuries to professional athletes through doping, and police say they need more time to question runners. Doping was recently made a criminal offense in Kenya, which has been in trouble with the World Anti-Doping Agency for its poor doping controls.

Despite a series of doping cases, Kenya has been cleared by the IAAF to send a track and field team to next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But the International Olympic Committee has warned that “substantial allegations” concerning doping exist against Kenya and has asked for additional testing of its athletes across all sports.

Earlier this week, Italian track coach Claudio Berardelli, who previously worked for the Rosas and is Jeptoo’s former coach, was arrested in Eldoret, a high altitude town in western Kenya famous as a training ground for the world’s best runners. He was due to be questioned in the capital, Nairobi, police said.

At least three athletes represented by the Rosas, Jeptoo, Mathew Kisorio and Agatha Jeruto, have been banned for doping in recent years.

Jeptoo, who was given a two-year ban after testing positive for the blood-booster EPO in a test in Kenya in 2014, is due to have her case heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland on Thursday. Track and field governing body the IAAF has appealed the two-year ban and wants a harsher punishment for Jeptoo. Jeptoo, in a counter-appeal, wants her ban reduced.

Federico and Gabriele Rosa were in Kenya for last week’s Olympic trials in Eldoret. Then, the two Italians had their hotels room searched by police, and were ordered to present themselves at police headquarters in Nairobi on Monday for questioning. It was unclear if Gabriele Rosa was also facing charges.

Federico Rosa denied any involvement in doping when contacted by The Associated Press on Monday. He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Rosas’ agency was one of two foreign athlete management companies suspended from working in Kenya for six months last year, with Kenyan authorities accusing foreign agents of involvement in supplying banned substances to athletes.

___

Imray reported from Somerset West, South Africa.

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