South Africa's Gena Lofstrand at the start of the Women's 800m at the recent athletics World Cup in London. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

South African track and field athletics has been caught with its pants down and the holes in the underwear were in plain view at the recent Athletics World Cup.

The quasi-international competition featuring the so-called top-eight nations in the world got out of the blocks with a false start.

IAAF president Seb Coe hailed it as an overwhelming success but I am afraid not even a face-lift made that pig look good.

Kudos to the organisers for trying to reinvigorate the sport but we already have the World Championships which pit the best of the world against each other.

But back to South Africa’s performance at the meeting where the country’s depth in all spheres of the sport was severely exposed.

There were, of course, the odd outliers with long-jump superstar Luvo Manyonga and inspiring short-sprint hurdler Rikenette Steenkamp providing some gloss to an otherwise lustreless campaign.

In highlighting some of the below-par performances it is in no way an attempt to ridicule the athletes.

Athletes do not select themselves and the lack of depth is certainly not their fault. It is the federation that should shoulder the blame. Some of the athletes were reluctant to participate in the event, knowing they were not in shape to represent their country to the best of their ability.

Others were simply not prepared to line up at the meeting four months after they last raced competitively.

One of South Africa’s top athletes took a stand against ASA’s selective selections and did not answer their call.

ASA are quick to invoke the "bringing the sport into disrepute" charge but fail to see that they are guilty of that half of the time. They know they can bully some of the athletes that they maliciously left out of last year’s IAAF World Championships.

When athletes argue that the competition gave them an opportunity to participate at an international level they give legitimacy to ASA’s actions.

An athlete who participated in London took to social media to defend the event, arguing it was a “great opportunity for those who might never get to go to events like the Olympics or World Champs”.

Most of the athletes who took part in London have qualified for these global events in any case but were left out by ASA thanks to their own silly parallel criteria.

ASA use articles 1.5 and 1.6 of their selection criteria to force athletes to participate at international competitions despite applying their own rules liberally.

“Any ASA licensed athlete who participated at an ASA national championships, in doing so, makes themselves available for selection for ASA teams representing South Africa,” ASA state in their preamble.

“Any athlete selected to represent South Africa at any championship has the obligation to avail themselves for such selection.”

Most of the time ASA select a team before even inquiring whether an athlete is available for selection. 

Surely an athlete has the right to decline selection if they feel they will do both the country and themselves a disservice. 

But they fear they will not be selected for future events if they decline, so they reluctantly toe the line.

Athletes like Caster Semenya do not stand for ASA’s nonsense and she featured at the Rabat Diamond League the night before London. 

Semenya understands that ASA do not own her and her right to earn a living as an athlete. 

Unfortunately athletes of a lesser stature do not have that luxury but hopefully, they will come to realise that they too can wield the power.


Saturday Star

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