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Tribunal to set judgment date for Cellephine Cheeptek
Chespol suit against Athletics Kenya, Nike   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The judgement date for the case where teenage distance running sensation and double World Under 20 steeplechase champion, Cellephine Cheeptek Chespol, is seeking action against Athletics Kenya (AK) and American apparel giant Nike is set for September 11.

Chespol has petitioned the Sports Disputes Tribunal (SDT) to void her previous contract with Nike and Golazo Sports to allow her validate her new agreement with Owen Andersen whom she signed as her Athletes’ Representative in March.

The athlete took legal action after AK declined to give her a clearance letter to run in the 2018 IAAF Diamond League meetings in Rome (May 31), Paris (June 30) and Monaco (July 20) before SDT ordered the federation to give her permission to feature in the races on May 24 pending the hearing and determination of her case.

During the latest hearing at the SDT offices in Nairobi on Tuesday afternoon, Chespol, who was cross-examined by defence counsel, Elias Masika, acknowledged she signed the disputed Nike and Golazo contract as a 16 year-old at the Team Kenya camp for the Cali 2015 IAAF World Under 17 Championships in Colombia.

“I was not given the contract to read. I was just shown where to sign and given some money but I do not remember the date,” Chespol who was testifying under oath told the hearing led by Elynah Shiveka who was sitting in for SDT chairman, John Ohaga.

On re-examination led by her counsel, Sarah Ochwadah, Chespol, who had told the court she was promised 10,000 U.S. dollars after signing the contract, gave details of how she was rushed into signing the document by Gregory Kilonzo.

Kilonzo was then a Team Kenya coach for Cali 2015 and when they stepped outside the hotel, they entered a vehicle where Nairobi AK chairman, Barnaba Korir, who also serves as the Chairman of the Youth Committee at the federation, was also present.

“We were at the Milele Camp (where the national team was based then) and coach Kilonzo told me to come down and sign a document. I asked him what it was and he told me it was a contract,” said Kilonzo.

“I was only given one page to sign, not the whole of it and there was no other signature or initials in the document. I was with the coach and Korir in a black car,” said the runner who went on to win gold in the girls’ 2,000m steeplechase in Colombia with 6:17.15.

The contract produced before the Tribunal that tied her to Golazo and Nike has three pages with Kilonzo and two other individuals going by the initials C.C and J.C are listed as witnesses.

“I was told to hurry up and sign the contract and it was not signed by Kilonzo. I did not write J.C and C.C and I did not sign the other pages,” Chespol who silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in 9:22.61 on April 11 stressed.

She claimed Korir and Kilonzo did not inform her at the time that Belgian Marc Corstjens who runs Golazo would be her manager.

“It’s only when I visited (Korir’s office) in Madaraka (Nairobi) later that I was told Marc is my manager,” Chespol added.

At 16, she did not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract and therefore, needed a guardian but on cross-examination, Chespol told the Tribunal she had not informed her parents about signing any agreement.

“I did not tell them of the contract because my mother cannot read and she was in Mount Elgon at the time,” the athlete who is now a two-time World Under 20 gold winner said.

On being questioned further by SDT member Robert Asembo, the former vice-president of Football Kenya Federation on whether the page she was given to sign was blank and who was present, Chespol insisted, “there was nothing in it and it was only Kilonzo, Korir and I in the car.”

Chespol shattered the world under-20 women’s steeplechase record at the Eugene leg of the IAAF Diamond League when she rocketed to victory in 8:58.78 on May 27, 2017. This remains the third fastest of all time over the distance by a female runner.

The 19 year-old became the first athlete to successfully defend her world U20 title at Tampere 2018 when she unfurled a 2:57.26 final 1000m to cross the line in 9:12.78 on July 13 to hold on to the crown she first won at Bydgoszcz 2016, Poland in 9:25.15 (July 22).

Should the SDT rule in her favor, Chespol who is scheduled to compete at the Brussels DL on Aug. 31, will have set a precedent as the first Kenyan junior athlete to successfully sue AK and its biggest sponsor Nike to be released from a contract.

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