JOHANNESBURG – Over-eager technical officials left a sour taste in the mouth in an otherwise sweet Athletix Grand Prix meeting in Pretoria on Thursday when they forced some athletes to cover insignia other than that of the official apparel sponsors of the series.
Athletics South Africa (ASA) chief executive Richard Stander apologised to athletes, their agents and their sponsors after officials taped over their logos.
The embarrassing debacle came on a night South Africa hosted world 100m champion Justin Gatlin, who must have been dumbstruck by the bizarre requirement, which is unheard of at major track and field meetings around the world.
“ASA already started with remedial action, by calling for an emergency meeting with the ASA Technical Committee to bring to their attention the error that has been made,” Stander said in a letter addressed to event organisers Stillwater Sport.
“ASA apologise for the inconvenience that was caused to the relevant athletes, their personal sponsors, their Athlete Representatives, and Stillwater Sport.
“As mentioned above, ASA has already started with remedial action, and will do everything in our power to ensure that there will not be a reoccurrence.”
While the blame was placed on unnamed technical officials, the bungle was not an isolated incidence as it also happened at the first leg in Roodepoort a week ago.
Sports agent Lee-Roy Newton, who has world long-jump champion Luvo Manyonga among his clients, said their athletes removed the tape from their clothing.
“I have addressed this issue with my clients. We were very specific last week and this week that those that are contracted to shoe companies would not have any of their contractual obligations breached,” Newton said.
“That’s why we took off the tape that was put on to cover their sponsors’ logos.”
Newton said it was important for athletes and their representatives to ensure their rights were not trampled in any way.
“Athletes and their agents need to understand their rights and they must exercise their rights accordingly, and it is the duty of an athlete to understand it and follow through with it,” he said.
“At the end of the day, they are running their own businesses, and we cannot allow any third party to interfere with their contractual obligations.”