Sunday 19 August 2018

Sonia O'Sullivan slams IAAF rules after Fionnuala McCormack is denied European medal by two Kenyan-born athletes

Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland reacts after finishing in fifth place in the Women's senior race at the 2016 Spar European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland reacts after finishing in fifth place in the Women's senior race at the 2016 Spar European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

The IAAF's rules on international eligibility have been called into question yet again after Ireland's Fionnuala McCormack was denied a medal at this morning's European Cross Country Championships in Chia, Italy by two Kenyan-born athletes competing for Turkey.

Turkey's Yasemin Can and Meryem Akda streaked clear of their rivals to take gold and silver with Norway's Karoline Grovdal 40 seconds behind the winner in third.

McCormack missed out on bronze by just two seconds and was just touched off for fourth by Romania's Ancuta Bobocel.

Two-time European cross-country champion McCormack vented her frustration earlier this year after finishing fourth in the 10,000m at the European Championships.

Irish athletics legend and Olympic silver medallist from Sydney 200 Sonia O'Sullivan slammed the rule which has allowed Can and Akda to switch their international allegiance so easily.

"It's a shame really that there are Kenyans so easily allowed to represent European countries because it takes away from the race," she told RTE.

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

"They are basically being paid to run for Turkey.

"Whoever allowed that to happen in the IAAF are not brave enough to distinguish between cases where people have legitimate reasons for people moving countries. For refugees 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.

"It's being discussed at the highest levels and I'm sure that Sebastian Coe is talking about it but it has taken them such a long time to change the rule.

"It seems easy enough to make the rule but to bring it backwards seem very difficult to do.

"It needs to be changed but I don't know why it takes so long to be changed when it's so obvious."

Former Irish athlete Jerry Kiernan questioned whether the gold and silver medallists from today had ever been to Turkey.

"The whole thing is a joke," he said.

"For years the IAAF was very badly led. There was corruption, there was drugs, there was this ability to easily able to switch countries.

"Those two Kenyans don't live in turkey. They've probably never been to Turkey.

"They have no connection to Turkey but are allowed to pitch up to these international competitions in a Turkish singlet.

"They are not the only country doing it but they are the most blatant.

"There has always been a good tradition of running in Turkey and they have a population of 80-90 million people. They're not short of people to run and they are bringing in Kenyans.

"If I was a Turk and I was looking at this I would say: 'They're not Turks, they're not running for us at all'."

The Irish women's team finished in sixth position overall.

Calum Hawkins of Great Britain became the first European-born athlete to make the podium in the men's event.

Great Britain also took gold in the team event.

Paul Pollock was the first Irishman home in 36th position.

Six of the first 10 home in the race were non-Europeans.

Online Editors

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