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IAAF freezes nationality switching process

Barhain’s Ruth Jebet in action in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final in Rio on August 15, 2016, running for Bahrain

CAP D’AIL, France, Feb 6 – Following a proposal by Sebastian Coe, the IAAF Council has frozen all new transfers of allegiance in athletics by exercising its powers under the Constitution to revoke Competition Rules 5.2(b), 5.4(d) and 5.4(e) with immediate effect.

A working group, set up to study the subject area, will submit proposals for new rules as a matter of the decision taken during the council meeting on Monday evening.

However the decision on Monday does not affect the 15 applications for transfer which are already in process.

Sebastian Coe commented: “It has become abundantly clear with regular multiple transfers of athletes especially from Africa that the present rules are no longer fit for purpose.”

“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.”

Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, Africa Area Group Representative on the IAAF Council, who will drive the process with the working group chaired by Hiroshi Yokokawa, said: “The present situation is wrong. What we have is a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder.”

“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 sports’ dignity.”

Kenya and Ethiopia have been greatly hit with their athletes chosing to switch nationalties mostly to the gulf, Turkey and the United States of America.

Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet perhaps put the situation into bigger light during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year when she won gold in the 3000m steeplechase racing for Bahrain.

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Eunice Kirwa, another Kenyan born athlete also won gold for the gulf nation in the women’s marathon.

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