SA athletes face ban from international events

Top South African athletes face being barred from competing on the international stage because of the ongoing fight between the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and Athletics South Africa (ASA).

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to which ASA is affiliated, has already cancelled the African Junior Championships, which were going to be hosted locally between June 27 and 30.

This came shortly after IAAF had sent a strongly worded three-page accusing Sascoc of unconstitutional interference in ASA affairs.

The letter suggests that this might affect South Africa’s participation in IAAF-sanctioned international events.

“Membership of the IAAF and the right to participate in international competitions is conditional upon such principles being upheld without derogation or compromise in any measure,” reads part of the letter.

The Diamond League, the high-profile, IAAF-sanctioned one-day track-and-field events, are currently under way in Europe, and the World Athletics Championships will be held in Moscow, Russia, in August.

In April, the IAAF suspended the Tunisian Athletics Federation (TAF) following what it termed “government interference”, and in 2006 it did the same to the Algerian Athletics Federation after the dissolution of its leadership by the country’s sports Minister, Yahia Guidoum.

The events in South Africa stem from the impeachment of ASA president James Evans by his board in March and later the suspension of the entire board by Sascoc, which appointed top lawyer Zola Majavu as administrator.

The IAAF has questioned the process and said it doesn’t recognise Majavu but it does recognise Evans and his board.

ASA failed to send teams to the inaugural African Youth Championships in Nigeria in March and the African Race Walking Championships in Mauritius in April.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam said the committee will meet the IAAF during the Association of National Olympic Committee’s general assembly in Lausanne, Switzerland, next weekend.

“We’ll meet them and state our case. They must give us the opportunity to sort out athletics in this country as we are independent, but we are not threatened by them,” he said.

The IAAF stated in its letter: “We will shortly be making a visit to South Africa to assess the situation closer at hand”.

IAAF communications manager Yannis Nikolaou told City Press: “At this time we can’t make an official comment as we are talking to Sascoc and ASA to get to the bottom of this matter. At the moment, everything is speculation which is dangerous. We will make an official comment only once a meeting has been held.”

Sam said Sascoc would resort to the International Olympic Committee, of which Sascoc and the IAAF are affiliates, if the IAAF did not budge.

The ugly public spat between Evans and Sascoc has been going on for three months.

This week, Evans said his removal was “a hate campaign” and called for Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy to go.

“Sascoc is running a hate campaign against me. I have been subjected to a tirade of allegations but never given a chance to respond. Surely Tubby must be fired or resign.”

Sam retorted: “We don’t hate anyone – we are just dealing with issues of governance.”

He also declared his backing of his chief executive, who is under fire.

In another development, Majavu threatened to voluntarily step aside but reconsidered after Sascoc reaffirmed its support.

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