The International Association of Athletics Federations has announced plans to draft new nation-switching rules to end the practice of countries enrolling athletes without giving them full lifelong nationality.
Many African distance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia in particular have made a switch of nationality in favour of a number of Gulf States such as Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and also Turkey.
While the departing athletes argue that they earn a better financial treatment and scholarship than in their original countries where competition for an Olympic Games spot is also difficult due to the high number of competitors, IAAF claims that nation-switching damages the credibility, integrity, and dignity of the sport.
Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, the president of the Confederation of African Athletics and head of the IAAF’s work group for the project, says there is need to tighten the rules.
“While the letter of the law was being followed in the transfer process, the spirit was not, as the rules were open to exploitation. Some athletes believe they are being offered great opportunities only to find the agreed citizenship turns out to be temporary,” Malboum said.
“It’s like a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder.”
Also, IAAF President Sebastien Coe said the system was “no longer fit for purpose.”
At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Kenya complained that they lost out on medals because of nationality switching.
It is unclear when the new rules will be announced and set to work, but multiple reports indicate they could come into effect before the 2020 Olympic Games.