In a move aimed at ending the fast-rising change of citizenship cases by athletes, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council meeting on Monday in Monaco froze all new transfers of allegiance in athletics.
The move, proposed IAAF president Sebastian Coe, was unanimously supported by the council exercising its powers under the Constitution to revoke Competition Rules.
A working group, which will be under the chairmanship of Hiroshi Yokokawa, was set up to study the subject area, will submit proposals for new rules as a matter of urgency and no later than the end of this year.
IAAF further said tasked Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) president Hamad Kalkaba Malboum with driving this piece of work with the working group chaired by Yokokawa.
However, the decision at the 208th IAAF Council Meeting at the Riviera Marriott Hotel, Cap d’Ail, France, will not affect the 15 applications for transfer which are already in process.
“It has become abundantly clear with regular multiple transfers of athletes especially from Africa that the present rules are no longer fit for purpose,” said Coe.
“Athletics, which at its highest levels of competition is a championship sport based upon national teams, is particularly vulnerable in this respect.”
Coe said the present rules do not offer the protections necessary to the individual athletes involved and are open to abuse.
Kalkaba noted what is existing now is a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder.
“Our present rules are being manipulated to the detriment of athletics’ credibility,” Kalkaba said. “Lots of the individual athletes concerned, many of whom are transferred at a young age, do not understand that they are forfeiting their nationality.”
Kalkaba said that the trend must end and a new way forward set up which respects the athletes’ rights and the sports’ dignity.
The move deals a major blow to countries like the United States of America, Bahrain, Turkey and Qatar among others who have a horde of Kenyans competing for them.
There are more than 30 Kenyan-born runners already competing for other nations especially at the Rio Olympics Games.
Most of these athletes have been lured by oil-rich countries like Turkey, Bahrain and Qatar with others seeking citizenship in the United States of America.
Three Kenyan born athletes claimed medals for their adopted counties in Rio. Ruth Jebet won the women’s 3,000m steeplechase gold for Bahrain, its first victory at the Olympics with Eunice Kirwa adding up the tally with silver in marathon, a year after winning bronze at the World Championships.
Paul Chelimo gave USA silver in 5,000m, losing the battle to Somali-born Mo Farah, who is now a Briton.
Others are Yasemin Can formerly Vivian Jemutai, who competed for Turkey in women’s 5,000m and 10,000m while Albert Rop represented Bahrain.
Among the high profile defections include Bernard Lagat, Wilson Kipketer (Denmark) and Saif Saaeed Shaheen formerly Stephen Cherono (Qatar).
The latest Kenyans to change their allegiance to the USA last month are 2012 London Olympics 10,000m silver medallist Sally Kipyego and Aliphine Tuliamuk, who has just won the USA National Cross Country Championships.
She will lead their team for the World Cross Country Championships due March 26 in Kampala.