Rift Develops Between Kenyan Athletes in Iowa and their Sports Agent
There is a rift within the Kenyan running community in Des Moines. A big one at that. Two years ago before the Des Moines Marathon, I wrote about West Des Moines’ Joe Kipnusu and his new Medali Sports Management company, whose aim was to help Kenyan athletes to live and train here in central Iowa.
Now a number of disgruntled Kenyans have left Kipnusu’s management, claiming that he hasn’t paid them for money they earned in races.
Sammy Rotich and Philip Lagat were the two athletes featured in my story. Both have since left Kipnusu’s apartment, with Lagat leaving for Toledo, Ohio. Rotich has been living on his own in Des Moines, but he and another Kenyan have been suspended by Kipnusu. Rotich is threatening to sue the former Des Moines Menace soccer player Kipnusu if he tries to take away his Visa.
“Joe has been playing a lot of games, like taking 15 percent in a race that he did not enter you and he’s not paying for anything,” Rotich wrote from Toluka, Mexico, where he is doing high-altitude training for about six weeks. “I pay my own rent, food and drive to races by myself. I don’t know why I was suspended in the first place. Wherever I say no to something, he threatens to revoke my Visa.”
Rotich first signed with Medali as his representation in the middle of 2009. He said that contract lasted until the end of 2010. Rotich then re-signed with Kipnusu, a soccer coach in Waukee, for four years from August of 2011 to 2015.
Things started to go downhill, according to Rotich. The 2010 Drake Relays half marathon winner said Kipnusu began taking prize money owed to Rotich, even though the runner was self-sufficient.
Prize money typically is sent to Kipnusu, and he doles it out to the runners. Rotich said other former Kenyans who have left Kipnusu’s management are owed money from 2011 races.
“Ask him if he has paid George Towett his Des Moines half (marathon) money $500, Ben Metto his Des Moines full (marathon) $2000 and Truphena Tarus $4,000 (from Des Moines and Twin Cities Marathons),” Rotich said.
Kipnusu explains that his company takes on the financial burden when he brings in a Kenyan to the United States.
“I take an athlete from Kenya, I pay for air ticket, Visa,” Kipnusu said. “All of them agree. At the end of it, when they have won, you cover expenses. They would like you to take bit by bit. You have to take the whole chunk for them.”
Kipnusu houses at least two Kenyan athletes at a time at his apartment. He takes care of their rent to him and feeds them. When they are injured and cannot help pay their expenses, Kipnusu said he has to foot the bill.
“Some of them when they get here they sustain an injury right away,” Kipnusu said. “They don’t win. You keep on believing they will get better.”
Then there is the cost and hassle of obtaining a P1 Visa, which is for an elite athlete. Kipnusu often petitions for the athlete. Attaining a P1 Visa can take anywhere from two weeks to six months. A website I saw lists the government filing fee between $320-$1,320 not counting the Consular fee and an average attorney fee of anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. The fees cover a five-year period.
Rotich said he received his new P1 Visa in January, but said Kipnusu has been threatening to revoke his Visa and won’t let him out of his contract.
“I’m still ready to work with him till (the) end of my P1, but I want him to be man enough and understand how I’m working hard, I pay my rent, traveling cost like coming to Mexico by myself and I don’t owe him anything,” Rotich said. “Wherever I say no to something he threatens to revoke my Visa.”
Kipnusu admits he did expel an athlete from his company and revoked their Visa.
“Some of those guys might be upset,” Kipnusu said. “I have to follow the immigration laws and make sure they are in good standing. I have to follow the law.”
Rotich said he stayed with Kipnusu because he wanted to try to teach the agent about runners. He regrets the move.
“Later he change and try to control me,” Rotich said.
He said that he even loaned Kipnusu $100 two months ago. He has never received the money back.
“I can leave that to him,” said Rotich.
“He doesn’t have any debt,” Kipnusu admitted. “He is staying within the contract. With him it’s nothing like that.”
The disagreement is so real between the disgruntled Kenyans and Kipnusu that Rotich is ready to send a message to his former roommate.
“Tell him to be ready if he revokes my P1,” Rotich said. “He will never enter any athlete to a race cause all the race directors will know (about the P1) and that I will sue him.”
By Lance Bergeson, DesMoinesRegister.com
Just a bad apple eliminated .....
Asked about a Des Moines register story, Medali manager said he expected such misrepresentation from Sammy because of his character. “Sammy is upset with our action and he wants to make it a case between Medali and other athletes and is running away from personal responsibility of being accountable for his own actions”. more story at www.medali-group.com