IAAF freeze nationality switch

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Feb 07, 2017
  • Kenyan born Bahraini Ruth Jebet on her way to winning the women's steeplechase in Rio.(Photo:SNA File)

All transfers of allegiance between countries have been frozen with immediate effect by the International Association of Athletics Federations , IAAF, it has been announced here today.

This is being introduced to halt the exodus of African athletes to other countries. A working group headed by Cameroon's Hamad Kolkaba Malboum has been set up to study potential changes.

They hope to propose far sterner criteria for switching countries by August's IAAF Congress in London. Malbou, a vice president of the IAAF and President of the Confederation of African Athletics is particularly keen to end the current practice of countries who hand permits to athletes from Africa but without giving them full lifelong nationality.

He would not single out countries at fault, but it is thought Turkey, Qatar and Bahrain are particularly culpablehe present situation is wrong - what we have is a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder," Malboum said.

"Our present rules are being manipulated to the detriment of athletics’ credibility. "Lots of the individual athletes concerned, many of whom are transferred at a young age, do not understand that they are forfeiting their nationality. "This must end and a new way forward found which respects the athletes’ rights and the sport's dignity."

At the Rio Olympics Bahrain won its first ever medals at the games through Eunice Kirwa, silver-in the women's marathon and Ruth Jebet-Gold in the 3000m Steeplechase.

The other best known nationality switches involved Saif Saaeed Shaheen, who, as a Kenyan named Stephen Cherono, won gold at the Junior World Championships in 1999 and Commonwealth Games in 2002, before switching to Qatar in 2003.

Present rules no longer fit, Coe 

Along with a name change, Shaheen was reported to have received a sum of $1 million (£620,000/€790,000) to become a Qatari citizen, although the athlete himself denied this.

Fourteen of the 22 individual running events at the Incheon 2014 Asian Games were won by athletes of African origin who had switched nationality, either to Qatar, Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates.

In December Aras Kaya and Yasemin Can, two Kenyan-born athletes running for Turkey, claimed the respective male and female titles at the European Cross Country Championships in Chia.

There have also been cases of athletes moving nations in different parts of the world primarily in order to further their international careers.

At a lower level, agents are also thought to be ransacking Kenyan schools in order to recruit potential athletes to change their names and relocate outside the country.

"It has become abundantly clear with regular multiple transfers of athletes especially from Africa that the present rules are no longer fit for purpose," added IAAF President Sebastian Coe today.

"Athletics, which at its highest levels of competition is a championship sport based upon national teams, is particularly vulnerable in this respect. "Furthermore, the present rules do not offer the protections necessary to the individual athletes involved and are open to abuse."

Russia remain suspended 

Meanwhile, Russia suspension by the IAAF will remain until November. The Russian Athletics Federation's (RusAF) suspension will not be lifted until the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is declared compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Under the current timetable, this will happen on a provisional basis in May and on a full basis in November.

This means Russians would only be able to compete as neutral athletes at August's IAAF World Championships in London.