Countries that think they can pay off foreign runners to don their uniforms can think again.
The International Association of Athletics Federations announced today that it has frozen all allegiance transfers. The announcement comes from the IAAF Council Meeting in Cap d’Ail, France.
The topic of athletes transferring countries gained considerable attention at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio after countries like Bahrain and Qatar got multiple athletes, who reside in Africa, to run for them instead in hopes of winning medals. Countries sometimes offer extravagant salaries to athletes to encourage them to change citizenship in hopes of them winning medals at global championships.
if you're wondering when Bahrain got good at track, like Qatar, they often offer athletes salaries to change citizenship
— David Epstein (@DavidEpstein) August 13, 2016
“It has become abundantly clear with regular multiple transfers of athletes especially from Africa that the present rules are no longer fit for purpose,” Coe says. “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.”
At the 2016 Olympics, for example, a quarter of the men’s 100m semifinalists were Jamaican despite each country being limited to three athletes in the event. An additional three runners represented Turkey and Bahrain.
More than 300 track and field athletes have switched allegiances in the past five years, according to a report in CNBC.
Hamad Kalkaba Malboum added that “what we have is a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder.”
Also announced at the council meeting was the elimination of the traditional bidding process for the IAAF World Championships, which likely is related to issues surrounding bribery. The IAAF will “now assess the strategic goals for growing the sport in relation to each IAAF competition, targeting cities from countries and regions which will best assist the delivery of those aims.”
The Russian Athletics Federation remains banned from international competition. Requirements have been set out for the RAF to be reinstated, one of which includes either admitting to, or rebutting, the findings from the damning McLaren Report, which brought to light Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.
With files from the IAAF.