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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 08:37, September 21, 2006
World record holder held in Kenya over migration hitch
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Kenyan officials confirmed on Wednesday they are holding 3,000 meters steeplechase world champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen at the country's main airport due to Nairobi "migration hitch".

Immigration officials said the Kenyan-born-turned-Qatari-national arrived on Tuesday from Athens where he ran for Qatar in the World Cup last weekend and won the steeplechase and 5,000m gold for Asia but could not leave the airport.

"Shaheen used a pupil's pass, which allows foreigners to study in Kenya. We know he is Qatari and we want to know what he is studying in the country," said Mary Musasia, the spokesperson for Immigration and Registration of Persons.

Shaheen was born and raised in the east African nation. He changed his nationality in 2003 and later changed his name from Stephen Cherono to Saif Saaeed Shaheen.

"As you know, foreigners are supposed to enter the country on a visa, not on a pupil's pass. Our investigators are talking to him and we will give more details later," Musasia added.

She said Shaheen who initially made his mark on the international stage with a win at World Youth Games in 1999 over the 3,000m steeplechase would be arraigned in court on Thursday.

Qatar has since been successful in persuading a number of foreign athletes, particularly Kenyan athletes, to switch allegiances including 5,000m athlete Albert Chepkurui.

Several Kenyans have migrated to Qatar and Bahrain in the recent past seeking better pay and opportunities to feature in the international arena, which is uncommon in the east African due to stiff competition during trials.

Shaheen, who is twice world steeplechase champion, currently holds the world record for 3,000m steeplechase in a time of 7:53:62 set in 2004 in Brussels.

The east African nation authorities criticized his defection and early this year, the Kenyan authorities arrested two athletes following allegations that they used falsified documents to acquire Bahrain passports.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules that athletes may not compete in international events for a period of three years subsequent to competing in an international event for a different country.

Shaheen himself has felt the repercussions of the defection as he was barred from competing in the 2004 Olympic Games.

Source: Xinhua

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