IAAF Unfreezes Transfer of Allegiance Process, Wants to Fix Problem of Identical Kits, Russia Still Banned, & Budapest 2023?

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By Jonathan Gault
July 27, 2018

For the past two days, the IAAF has been holding a Council Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and during that span, the IAAF Council has been looking at several issues in the news recently, including the transfer of allegiance process, the continued suspension of the Russian federation, and the awarding of the 2023 World Championships. This afternoon, the IAAF held a press conference, which you can stream in its entirety here below, in which IAAF president Sebastian Coe addressed several of these issues. Let’s run through the highlights quickly.

Lagat at the 2009 Healthy Kidney 10K

Lagat at the 2009 Healthy Kidney 10K

The transfer of allegiance process is open again

In February 2017, the IAAF froze its transfer of allegiance process, which prevented athletes from changing the country that they represent internationally. While the aim of the freeze was to prevent countries such as Turkey and Bahrain poaching young African athletes who may not know what they’re getting into, it has affected anyone looking to change countries. One notable example: Kenyan-born American citizen Haron Lagat, who has lived in the U.S. for the past 16 years and competed at the past two USATF Outdoor Championships but wasn’t allowed to represent the USA internationally.

Coe announced today that the Council has unfrozen the transfer of allegiance process under new rules with immediate effect. The rules will be sent to member federations and posted on the IAAF website next week, but Coe outlined four key points of emphasis:

  • The establishment of a review panel to make determinations on the credibility of the applications.
  • Clear evidence that countries are offering full and permanent citizenship and associated rights.
  • A minimum three-year waiting period before an athlete may transfer to represent another member federation.
  • An athlete can transfer only once and that no transfers can take place under the age of 20.

Budapest looks to have the inside track to hosting the 2023 World Championships

With Doha hosting in 2019 and Eugene in 2021, the next IAAF World Championships to be awarded are in 2023. And they could well be headed to Budapest, Hungary.

“The Council were taken through the discussion with European cities and approved the recommendation that Budapest is the preferred European city to host the IAAF World Championships in 2023,” Coe said. “But let me be clear here, the process is now a full technical, financial, and risk evaluation to be undertaken, and that analysis to be to presented to the Council in December, and at that stage, the final decision will be made.”

It’s not exactly clear if “preferred European city” means that there are potential candidates remaining from other continents — remember, the IAAF scrapped the old bidding process — but it seems likely that Budapest will host in 2023. Since the first Worlds were held in Helsinki in 1983, 11 of the 16 editions have been staged in Europe, and there have never been two consecutive Worlds staged outside of the continent. That will change, as the next two editions are scheduled to be held in Asia and North America, respectively, which makes a return to Europe in 2023 extremely likely. Budapest has never hosted a Worlds or Olympics outdoors, but it did host World Indoors in 2004.

The IAAF is aware that there is a problem with identical uniforms (athlete kits) on the Diamond League circuit and wants to fix it

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We at LetsRun.com have long complained about major shoe companies such as Nike and adidas forcing their athletes to wear identical singlets in races. Too often, Diamond League distance races consist of a string of Ethiopians and Kenyans wearing the exact same uniform. Because many of these athletes’ backstories are not well-known, it is easy for casual American fans to simply lump them all together as “the Kenyans” or “the Ethiopians” or “the East Africans,” and by outfitting all of them in the same uniform, Nike and adidas are tacitly promoting this behavior (Editor’s note: While the Nike and adidas uniforms are different, it’s eerie how most years they are of a similar color scheme).

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the distance races, but because those events feature dozens of athletes tightly bunched tightly together, those are the events where the problem is most obvious. This thread — MB: Nike, please stop dressing EVERY runner in a race in the same singlet — was started in 2013, and five years later, it’s still a major problem.

Fortunately, the IAAF has realized this as well, and as Coe attempts to revamp the Diamond League, expect some change in this area in the years to come.

We are now setting up a group to look at this,” Coe said. “There has to be change here. This really does not help the sport.”

IAAF to require three out-of-competition tests for all athletes from nations at risk for doping prior to competing at Worlds

Coe announced some new anti-doping regulations for national federations. Each federation will be divided into one of three categories — Category A, the federations most at risk of doping; Category B, federations competitive at the international level; or Category C, federations with very few international-level athletes.

“The current watchlist of four federations, Kenya, Ethiopia, Belarus, and Ukraine, will be folded into Category A, which will include those member federations most at risk of doping,” Coe said. “The national team athletes from these federations must undergo at least three out-of-competition doping tests in the 10 months before a World Championships or an Olympic Games.”

Russia still banned, but making progess

The IAAF banned the Russian federation (RUSAF) almost three years ago (November 2015) and there was speculation heading into this IAAF Council meeting that the Russian federation could be kicked out of the IAAF given the lack of progress RUSAF has made since then.

“[In March], we warned that if that continued, then the [IAAF] Taskforce may be forced to recommend at this meeting that the Taskforce be disbanded and steps be taken towards the full expulsion of RUSAF from IAAF membership,” said Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF Taskforce handling Russian reinstatement.

It does not appear that the IAAF will need to take that step.

“I’m pleased to say that that message had its desired effect,” Andersen said. “There has been a lot of meaningful engagement from RUSAF since the last meeting and they have made significant progress in meeting the outstanding requirements. In fact, in some cases they have gone above and beyond what is required.”

Andersen said that three main requirements stand between Russia and reinstatement:

  • Payment of the costs incurred by IAAF as a result of the Russian crisis, including costs of the IAAF Taskforce and CAS cases. This one is on track to be completed as Andersen said RUSAF has made a written agreement to pay these costs once they are finalized.
  • Russian authorities providing access to data from the testing of samples from the Moscow lab from 2011-2015.
  • Reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) by WADA. This one has proved problematic as it requires Russia acknowledging the findings of the McLaren report, which states that the Russian Ministry of Sport ministry administered the doping conspiracy and subsequent cover-up. The Russian Ministry of Sport has repeatedly denied these findings.