Francis Obikwelu, one of the athlethes bar from national switch.
World athletics governing body, IAAF, yesterday decreed an end to nationality changes by athletes, saying the system has become open to abuse and that rules are being manipulated.
The body said it would set up a working group to agree new rules by the end of the year. In recent times, some Nigerian athletes have switched allegiance to other countries; with Olympics silver medallists, Francis Obikwelu (Portugal) and Glory Alozie (Spain) the most notable among them.
“It has become abundantly clear that with regular multiple transfers of allegiance, especially from Africa, the present rules are no longer fit for purpose,” Coe said on Monday.
“Athletics has to be based on national teams and is particularly vulnerable,” he added. “The rules do not provide protection necessary for individual athletes, they are open to abuse. Many federations regularly receive reports of athletes who are available for trade.”
The IAAF said the ban would not affect the 15 applications to switch allegiance, which have already been made. Unlike other sports such as football, athletics allows its competitors to switch nationalities even after they have represented one country at international level.
Several dozen athletes changed allegiance on the eve of last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, the African representative on the IAAF Council, will lead the working group.
“The present situation is wrong,” Malboum said. “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 who are transferred at a young age, do not understand that they are forfeiting their nationality,” he added.
“Some are running for countries but are not citizens of those countries … at the end of the comp they are not citizens of those countries, they don’t have any future.”
Meanwhile, some Kenyan stars hope the IAAF will come up with laws that will not infringe on athletes’ rights when it comes to change of nationality. Athletics Kenya athletes’ representative Milcah Chemos, who defended athletes who have changed their citizenship, said they only need to be guided on their contractual agreements and rights to avoid exploitation.