By Nick Butler

Ugandan athletes parade at the Opening Ceremony of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games ©AFP/Getty ImagesApril 3 - Several Ugandan national team runners have deserted an athletics camp in Kapchorwa as a sexual harassment scandal involving female members of the team deepens.

Allegations first surfaced last month following an investigation into below-par performances by Ugandan athletes at the African Cross Country Championships.

A runner, who preferred to remain anonymous rather than face reprisals, told the Daily Monitor that an unnamed coach would "wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room", and "if you refused to do what he wanted, he would beat you up".

Following this, Ugandan team captain Moses Kipsiro, who won a 5,000 metres bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, followed by a 5,000m and 10,000m double at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, confronted the coach in question but was then controversially dropped from the team for the World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen last Saturday (March 29). 

Kipsiro was particularly critical of the fact that a male coach had been assigned to the female members of the team. 

It is claimed the habits of the coach are known to the authorities but nothing has been done to reprimand him and the scandal has been denied and dismissed as "political" by the Ugandan Athletics Federation.

A further development has taken place today after male and female national team runners deserted the Police Athletics Camp in Kapchorwa and chose to train on their own because the coach remains present and unpunished. 

"We cannot continue working with such a coach and we can't stay in the camp because the situation is not about to change if he is still in charge," another unnamed female athlete said. 

Moses Kipsiro, competing against Mo Farah at a Diamond League event in 2012, has been dropped from the Ugandan team after criticising the alleged abuse by the coach ©AFP/Getty ImagesMoses Kipsiro, competing against Mo Farah at a Diamond League event in 2012, has been dropped from the Ugandan team after criticising the alleged abuse by the coach
©AFP/Getty Images

The athletes to have deserted the camp are thought to include 2010 World Junior Championships bronze medallist Jacob Araptany, World Cross-country Championships competitor Abdallah Mande and 10,000m national champion Peter Kibet.

Although the trio all still hope to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this year, the unsupervised and unstructured nature of training individually will presumably reduce their chances of success. 

Their has also been talk that the team may choose not to compete in events this summer, including the Games, if the coach is not removed. 

Ugandan participation at Glasgow 2014 has already been criticised following the passing of a law prohibiting homosexuality in the central African nation, which was approved by President Yoweri Museveni last month. 

As well as introducing potential life sentences for "aggravated homosexuality", which included sex with a minor or while HIV positive, it explicitly criminalises lesbianism for the first time and makes it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts.

In response to this, former Scottish cyclist Graham Obree began a petition, entitled "No Hate at the Games", calling for a ban on Ugandan politicians attending Glasgow 2014.

It has so far gathered more than 3,600 signatures. 

At London 2012, Stephen Kiprotich won Uganda's first Olympic title in any sport for 40 years when he won gold in the marathon, before he won again at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. 

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