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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
IOC condemns 'athletes market'
Jacques Rogge
Rogge: We should avoid this transfer market in athletes
The president of the International Olympic Committee has suggested it is immoral for states to lure foreign athletes for money, then field them as their own.

Jacques Rogge was speaking out after two of Kenya's top distance runners became citizens of Qatar for a reported lifetime salary of $1,000 per month.

One of them ran the world's fastest 3,000-metre steeplechase this year in Zurich, Switzerland, last Friday.

Mr Rogge said there were rules preventing overnight changes of citizenship but these were not always observed, particularly in Europe.

"Once an athlete has participated at a world championships or an Olympics then he cannot change nationality within three years unless the two federations agree," he said in Paris.

"However the day you change nationality in Europe under their laws you become entitled to all the privileges associated with such a change."

'Do you like it?'

The IOC president accepted there were legitimate reasons for athletes to change identity such as emigration or the need for political asylum.

"What we don't like is athletes being lured by large incentives by other countries and giving them a passport when they arrive at the airport," he said.

Stephen Cherono (right, archive)

"From a moral point of view we should avoid this transfer market in athletes."

Saif Saeed Shaheen, 20, was until this month a Kenyan citizen by the name of Stephen Cherono.

He had been a Qatari citizen for only eight days when he won the Zurich steeplechase, followed in fifth place by fellow ex-Kenyan Albert Chekkurui - now known as Abdulah Amad Hassan.

Shaheen laughed and seemed to make light of his new identity when he spoke to reporters after the race:

"My name? I didn't choose it. They just gave it to me. Do you like it?"

Hassan, 22, said his home country and Qatar were worlds apart:

"In Kenya there is nothing like this. Qatar is a country with a lot of opportunities."

The Kenyan authorities have also criticised the transfer saying it was made without their knowledge.

"Our hands were tied since the two athletes had already acquired Qatari citizenship, without informing us," said the secretary of Athletics Kenya, David Okeyo, earlier this month.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Kenya
17 Jun 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Qatar
05 Aug 03  |  Country profiles


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