South Africa suspends its athletics federation

GERALD IMRAY
Last updated 23:30 23/06/2013

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South Africa's Olympic committee suspended the troubled national track federation on Sunday and said athletes like Caster Semenya would not be able to compete at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games until the problems were resolved.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee said it had now "cut ties" with Athletics South Africa, which had been put under administration this year but defied that order Saturday by reinstating its own board.

The battle between SASCOC and ASA is also complicated by the apparent support for the track federation from international athletics body IAAF, which still considers ASA to be in charge of South African track and field.

SACOC said that ASA was suspended as a member of the South African Olympic body and "can continue to engage with the IAAF on the functioning and administration of the sport."

"We have engaged with the IAAF verbally, in writing and via a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on 15 June 2013," SASCOC said. "It has been evident that the IAAF does not recognize SASCOC as a sports authority in South Africa. The IAAF would rather support ASA, which has no leadership."

SASCOC suspended the ASA board in April after an internal power struggle between its President James Evans and Vice President Hendrick Ramaala, South Africa's former Olympic marathon runner.

That led SASCOC to place ASA under the charge of an independent administrator, but Evans said Saturday that the board had been reinstated after a special general meeting of ASA in Pretoria. Evans said the move followed the IAAF making clear in a letter to SASCOC on June 4 that it still recognized the ASA board as being in charge.

"That letter confirmed that they (the IAAF) will not tolerate external interference or influence in the governance of their member federations; that they do not accept the fact that SASCOC appointed an administrator to run Athletics South Africa and that they still recognize the board elected in 2012," Evans said.

SASCOC responded to ASA reinstating its board by warning Sunday that no track and field athletes would be allowed on South African teams for multi-sport events like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and All Africa Games. Those teams are financed by SASCOC.

Former 800-meter world champion Semenya, who won silver at last year's London Olympics, former Olympic silver medalist long jumper Khotso Mokoena and Commonwealth javelin champion Sunette Viljoen are the highest profile athletes who could be affected by the fallout.

ASA has had leadership problems for years, with the former administration thrown out in the wake of Semenya's turbulent gender test controversy following her victory at the 2009 world championships. The former ASA president admitted lying about gender tests performed on Semenya in South Africa and was fired in 2011 along with other officials for financial misconduct and their handling of the Semenya affair.

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- AP

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