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IAAF will have to help athletes ... JAAA boss responds to body ban of allegiance transfer

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2017 | 2:00 AMDania Bogle

President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Dr Warren Blake said the IAAF will have to find a way for lower-tier athletes to make a liveable income from track and field after the world governing body on Monday placed a freeze on athletes' transfers of allegiance.

According to statistics on the IAAF's website, since 1998, 11 Jamaicans have switched allegiance.

In 2015, three Jamaican sprinters - Winston Barnes, Kemarley Brown and Andrew Fisher - switched allegiance to Turkey and Bahrain, respectively. All three represented their respective countries at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The transfers were controversial, and Blake had raised concern about the practice.

He said that the fact that some countries went only in search of the top-tier athletes meant that if more Jamaicans were gobbled by wealthy countries, within 10 years, the country would begin to suffer a shortage of talent.

"They (other countries) are not really interested in second-stream people. It is only top- tier people they are after, and they have significantly deep pockets and if you remove 10 people each year out of the programme, it would not take long to affect Jamaica," Blake told The Gleaner.

MAIN CONCERN

Blake added that the IAAF's main concern was with African countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, evidenced from the statement by its president Sebastian Coe on Monday.

"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," Coe's statement said.

Blake said that in Kenya, once an athlete switches allegiance he is stripped of nationality, which raised problems if he or she failed to perform satisfactorily for their new countries.

"What has been happening is they are not given full citizenship of those countries. They are given passport and nationality and if anything happens to them, they find themselves stateless and once they can't run anymore, they can't go back to the home country, and they can't stay where they are. It's only good for them while they continue running," Blake said.

He also noted that in the case of Jamaicans, many of them continue to train in Jamaica even after switching allegiance.

"... And it's clear they don't live in the country. It's things like that that prompted the IAAF to say they need to regularise it," he added.

He admitted, however, that with so few spots for the highest calibre athletes, the IAAF would have to find a way to make the lower-tier athletes earn enough on which to live.

"Because right now, only the top of the top can live comfortably off the sport, and once it remains that way, it will always be for people to find ways to around it."