Kenya, Ethiopia criticize IAAF move to drop long distance races from Diamond league

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-13 20:49:58|Editor: zh
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NAIROBI, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Kenya will launch a formal protest to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over their move to lock out long distance races from the Diamond League circuit that starts in May in Doha.

Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei says the planned new Diamond League set up for 2020, which will no longer include the 5,000m, was unfair to the region and will lock out many east African athletes and deny them the chance to earn a living.

Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Morocco have dominated the 5,000m and 10,000m races, with foreign exports from the region staking their claims for Qatar, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

"Long distance races on track is where Africa's strength is and we have been encouraging and getting more athletes to run 5,000m and 10,000m races," Tuwei said in Nairobi on Wednesday.

"You can't come up with such drastic changes without even informing members in time for them to make adjustments. We shall make our presentation to IAAF and hopefully have the decision shelved," he added.

Diamond Trophy winner Hellen Obiri, who was crowned champion at the 3,000m distance, faces having her specialty 5,000m race removed from the program.

She believes the move will deter more local talent from training and competing in the long distance races.

"Why would you train for the 10,000m or the 5,000m if there are no competitions and no compensation in prize money. It is useless. Now many athletes will jump from the junior ranks to the marathon and that is career threatening," she said.

Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie, who made his fortune running the 10,000m and 5,000m races, called the move discriminatory to the region's athletes.

He criticized the IAAF for making a backwards step in the development of the sport from 2020 onwards.

"It is a sad decision that will disproportionately affect Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as east Africa as a whole," said Gebrselassie.

Paul Tergat, a former world marathon record holder and currently Kenya's president for the National Olympic Committee (NOCK), said Africa will suffer from the new rule when it is implemented in 2020.

"We are fighting to have sport remain relevant and attractive to youths as they transition from school. Now the IAAF is making it hard for children to select athletics. With limited competition, they will opt for other sports," he said.

The Diamond League is the lucrative premier competition for elite athletes. It has 14 legs across Asia, Africa, the U.S. and Europe.

Winners in every discipline in each of the 14 series meeting earn 40,000 U.S. dollars.

Overall winners at the end of the series earn an extra 50,000 dollars and become the world number one in their discipline. They also earn a direct ticket to the Olympic Games and World Championships.