Sonia O'Sullivan slams IAAF after Kenyan-born athletes win European medals

Fionnuala McCormack missed out on a medal at the European Cross Country Championships

BY Adrian Collins 15:18 Sunday 11 December 2016, 15:18 11 Dec 2016

Image: ©INPHO/Sasa Pahic Szabo

Sonia O'Sullivan and Jerry Kiernan have hit out at the IAAF for allowing athletes to represent countries with which they have no connection. 

Fionnuala McCormack missed out on a medal at the European Cross Country Championships on Sunday where she finished fifth, just two seconds short of claiming a bronze medal. 

The race was won by Yasemin Can of Turkey, with Meryem Akda finishing in second, both of who are Kenyan-born athletes. 

In July, McCormack also finished fourth behind the Kenyan-born Can in the women's 10,000 metres final at the European Championships, and expressed her frustration that athletes like Can were allowed to switch allegiances so easily. 

On Sunday, McCormack similarly expressed her anger that the situation has not been addressed in any way, stating: "Something has to be done. I can’t do anything about it, someone else has to do it and it’s at the top that it needs to be sorted out. That’s all I can really say about it."

Speaking on RTÉ after the race, O'Sullivan backed up McCormack's sentiment, and stated that the athletes were "basically being paid to run for Turkey."

"It's a shame really that there are Kenyans allowed to so easily represent European countries," said O'Sullivan, "because it takes away from the race. I don't think they're legitimately running for the country; they don't live there, they haven't grown up there, there's no connection there."

"Whoever made that decision allowed it to happen when they made it," O'Sullivan added. "They're not brave enough to distinguish between cases that are legitimate, or reasons for people moving countries for refugee status, or for reasons other than going to be a part of a team.

"When you run for your country, you shouldn't really be buying people from other countries."

Jerry Kiernan followed up by saying something similar, and particularly highlighted the unique case of the two athletes who came in first and second place in McCormack's race.

"They don't live in Turkey, They live in Iten, where they have rented out three apartments [...] and the coach is a Bulgarian. They have no connection whatsoever with Turkey, other than when they pitch up for these competitions wearing the Turkish singlet and that's it.

"They're not the only ones, but they are the most blatant at doing it."

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