Born Stephen Cherono, Shaheeen was detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on Tuesday night after arriving from Athens where he had won the World Cup steeplechase and 5,000m gold for Asia.
The runner’s lawyer was in an aggressive mood after his client had tried to enter on a pupil’s pass which allows foreigners to study in Kenya rather than a standard visa.
“There is no disclosed offence and we are definitely going to take legal action against the government,” Shaheen’s lawyer Donald Kipkorir told reporters. “You can’t lock somebody up for 15 hours with no offence.”
Shaheen told reporters he had alerted officers to the problem several times when using it before and been assured there would be no issue.
“When I brought this matter to their attention, they locked me in,” he said.
The 24 year old laid the blame for the incident on the Qatari official who had applied for the visa.
“Because the man does not know English, this mistake passed unnoticed,” he said.
The athlete who was banned from the 2004 Olympics due to his defection described his detention as “a night in hell”.
“I was insulted but I do not want to go into those details,” he said. “I have forgiven them, and if I made any mistake, I seek forgiveness.”
Kenya gets tough
The Kenyan Government has recently taken steps to strengthen its rules on runners who attempt to defect to the Gulf on fake documents.
In recent years, many Kenyan runners have migrated to the Gulf States of Qatar and Bahrain as the look for better training facilities, more money and the opportunity to compete in global championships given the competition for places in Kenya.
Much to the chagrin of Kenyan officials, these runners still spend months in Kenyan training camps in the highlands.
In July, Sports Minister Maina Kamanda ordered the arrest of world youth 800 metres and 1,500 metres champion John Kipkorir Yego, world youth 2,000 steeplechase champion Dennis Kipkurui Keter and Hosea Kiplagat Kosgei.
The three, who acquired Bahrain passports, were detained and released following allegations they used false information to obtain their passports.
While in August, Kamanda led immigration officials to arrest runner Thomas Loriongosiwa at the Kenyan residential camp in the capital where the team was training for the world junior championships in Beijing.
Both cases continue to be investigated.