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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

'There are Kenyans so easily allowed to represent European countries... It takes away from the race'

Irish sporting icon Sonia O’Sullivan was critical of the IAAF following the latest controversy relating to eligibility rules.

Sonia O'Sullivan (file pic).
Sonia O'Sullivan (file pic).
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

SONIA O’SULLIVAN AND Jerry Kiernan have criticised the eligibility rules in athletics that allow runners to represent countries with which they have little connection to.

The issue has been a big talking point in the sport for some time, with the latest controversy seeing Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack missing out on a medal after finishing fifth in the European Cross Country Championship, with Turkey’s Kenyan-born athletes ahead of her.

Speaking on RTÉ, Irish sporting icon O’Sullivan made the distinction between athletes who represent countries they weren’t born in for legitimate reasons compared with those who cynically exploit the rules.

It’s a shame really that there are Kenyans so easily allowed to represent European countries because it takes away from the race.

“I don’t think they are legitimately running for the country. They don’t live there. They haven’t grown up there. There is no connection there.

“They are basically being paid to run for Turkey.

Whoever made that decision, allowed that to happen in the IAAF when they made it, they’re not brave enough to distinguish between cases that are legitimate, where there’s reasons for  people moving countries for refugee status or reasons other than going to be a part of a team.

“When you run for your country, you should really be buying people from other countries.”

(Click here if video doesn’t play.)

Fellow Irish athletics pundit Jerry Kiernan echoed O’Sullivan’s views, criticising authorities for facilitating this controversial situation and branding the status quo as a “joke”.

For years the IAAF was very badly led. Lamine Diack was at the head of the association and there was all kinds of stuff going on.

“There was corruption, there were drugs, there was this easy ability to be able to switch from one country to the next.

“Those two Kenyans don’t live in Turkey. They’ve probably never been to Turkey.

They have no connection whatsoever with Turkey other than when they pitch up to these competitions wearing the Turkish singlet.

“They are not the only country doing it but they are the most blatant. They’re shameless.”

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Paul Fennessy

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