Kenyan athletics head Kiplagat dies after a long illness

FILE- In this file photo dated Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, athletics Kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat addresses the media during a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya,. The suspended president of Athletics Kenya, Isaiah Kiplagat, has died aged 72, after a long illness, according to a statement from track and field's world governing body, the IAAF, Wednesday Aug. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, FILE)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The suspended president of Athletics Kenya, Isaiah Kiplagat, has died after a long illness. He was 72.

Track and field's world governing body, the IAAF, said that Kiplagat's death on Wednesday was confirmed by Kenya's athletics association, which he led for more than 20 years.

Kiplagat was a divisive figure who dominated the most successful sport in his country in a manner that is unlikely to be repeated. He was a longtime IAAF Council member during the presidency of Lamine Diack of Senegal which ended last year.

The IAAF ethics commission suspended Kiplagat and two other Athletics Kenya officials last November during an ongoing investigation of alleged embezzlement and extortion.

All three men were accused of diverting more than $700,000 of sponsorship money from Nike for personal gain, and asking athletes to pay to conceal positive doping tests.

Diack is under investigation in France for alleged corruption.

Kiplagat took charge of his national athletics body in 1992, a time when the sport was struggling in Kenya.

"Back then we neither had offices, money nor equipment to operate the association activities yet we had already gained recognition across the globe and quick action needed to be taken urgently," he said in an interview after serving his 20th year at the helm.

Kiplagat was involved in sports administration for 50 years, spending more than two decades as chairman and then president of his national association. He won admirers and critics alike for his grip on power, as he guided the sport in Kenya from an amateur venture to being a multi-million dollar business.

He was first elected to the national office of the forerunner to AK, the defunct Kenya Amateur Athletics Association in 1975 as its vice-chairman, a position he held until 1987 when he was elected the secretary general.

Kiplagat served in the post for two years until he was again elected as the vice-chair, a position he held until 1992, when he succeeded the late Paul Boit at the helm. Among the first things he did was to rename the KAAA as AK.

His interest in sports administration was inspired by the Olympic Games.

"I was the chef-de-mission for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico where I watched Kipchoge Keino win gold. That was when I decided I would go for an elective post," he once said.

As AK's leader, his notable milestones include the successful hosting of the 2007 world cross country championships in Mombasa, the winning of the bid to stage the 2017 world under-17 championships in Nairobi and the 2010 CAA Africa athletics championships in the Kenyan capital.

Under his watch, Kenya topped the charts at the biennial track and field world championships for the first time in 2015 in Beijing.

He had been treated for colon cancer since an initial diagnosis in 2010.

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