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Kenyan top runners laud IAAF freeze on transfer of allegiance cases

Nairobi: Elite Kenyan athletes have given a thumbs up on the decision by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to freeze all new transfers of allegiance cases.

The athletes' reactions come after the IAAF Council on Monday suspended all new transfers of allegiance in athletics, hence dealing a major blow to athletes hoping to change their citizenship and countries involved.

Olympic 800 metres champion David Rudisha said on Wednesday foreigners have exploited the weak rules and misused Kenyan athletes with hopes of landing fortune in the distant land, reports Xinhua.

Rudisha said international championships are about specific qualities of countries and the right to brag, which must be maintained.

Rio Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge said though the move brings out stiffer competitions during international championships, every athlete deserves to hold in high esteem some values about their country, which must be the ones inspiring them to win. "However, we must be cautious not to apply a blanket rule to stop the movement because some have genuine reasons. But most of it is exploitation, which IAAF has done well to curtail. I hope better rules and steps will be taken in future," Kipchoge said from Eldoret.

Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei said they have borne the brunt of transfer of allegiance, most coming just ahead of major championships, which rules out the spirit of competition, because most of the time, you only realise who your competition is on the track. "They need to stop it and give our athletes and coaches chance to vet and assess their opponents in time. Most of them transfer suddenly and disappear from the radar only to appear in championships denying us the medals," he said.

On Monday, IAAF President Sebastian Coe proposed to his Council to freeze all new transfers of allegiance in athletics because "present rules are no longer fit for purpose".

Since 2003, Kenya has lost over 60 young athletes who are now competing for other countries. In fact at the Rio Olympics over 20 athletes born in Kenya, competed for their adopted countries with the most prominent ones Ruth Jebet and Eunice Kirwa winning gold (steeplechase) and silver (marathon).

Bahrain had 35 athletes in Rio and majority of them hailed from select African countries, particularly in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

Eliud Wambua, who is an official in ministry of education and a member of the Athletics Kenya (AK) youth committee, said many young athletes, mostly in primary and junior secondary school are lured to other countries without knowing what their contracts say and their poor parents are paid money to endorse the transfers. "Though it is fine to take them abroad in hope of changing their lives, but it must be done above board and endorsed by the ministry," he said.

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