Time to Tighten the Rules

A few months ago we ran a story on how Great Britain had some new citizens who were to represent them at the London Olympic games (Gold Diggers) and may in fact bring them home a few medals. Nothing that any other country has done before, including Australia. However we feel that the whole issue of eligibility is becoming ridiculous with double standards with in many sports.

Take for example the bronze medallist in the long jump at the World indoor Championships last week in Istanbul, Shara Proctor. She cannot compete in London for her British overseas territory, because Anguilla has no Olympic committee. Yet she was able to attend the World Championships. Surely therefore she deserves to compete for Great Britain if those running the sport create such preventative rules.

However should Tiffany Porter be allowed to compete for Great Britain? Porter has a British mother but has spent her whole life in the United States and admitted she swapped due to the better UK system.

One has to feel for Yamile Aldama, a truly remarkable lady, who won the triple jump at the World Indoor Championships aged 39. Ms Aldama was born in Cuba, and left because she fell in love with a Scotsman. Cuba refused to pick anyone living overseas so her career was in limbo. Her application for a British passport stalled- possibly related to her husband being sent to jail. So she was the best in the World yet had no one to jump for. So she managed to obtain Sudanese citizenship. Her British passport has now come through (2010), albeit ten years after her application was lodged and she is keen to represent Great Britain.

Then we have the case of Bernard Lagat who has won two Olympic medals for Kenya, who will now run for America. Mind you he probably deserves that privilege, he has lived there for 15 years, married an American, has had children there and is committed to his adopted country.

We have seen other athletes leave their homelands in recent months to try and obtain selection with countries they have distant links to. In Ghana I met with three British boxers who were not going to make the team in the land they live, so opted to try and gain selection in the country their families hail from. Amir Khan’s brother will fight for Pakistan at the London Olympics.

So what is the answer? Quite simply in most cases athletes should have to serve a term of residency before qualifying for a nation. Althought what does one do in the aforementioned case of Shara Proctor?

Something definitely needs to be done, but as always in sport it is not as simple as black and white.

Time to Tighten the Rules
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