BBC World Service Sports Diary: The Change of Allegiance controversy, the good, bad, and frustrating case of Haron Lagat


Several times a year, I am fortunate to be asked to be on a segment for BBC sports radio. The BBC world service provides the finest radio content, with the most amazing depth of any media services. In the U.S. especially, I follow BBC world service, Euro News as most US media destinations are too partisan to provide a complete story.

Lagat_Haron-Houston18.jpgHaron Lagat, photo by

Here's my piece on the The Change of Allegiance piece we did today, March 25, 2018. The BBC world service segement was presented by Sarah Mulkerrins, who had done her homework and asked some great questions.

Next to doping in sports, the country allegiance controversies may be the worst problem that we have to face in athletics. This is a timely conversation.

Sarah Mulkerrins introduced all of us (Sven Arne Hansen, Haron Lagat, David Monti, Mara Yamauchi, Larry Eder) and asked us questions, after she set up the Allegiance program with Sven and the issue with Haron).

Sven Arne Hansen, President of European Athletics was asked about the transfer policy. Sven noted that it was a huge problem, and that the IAAF responded. European Athletics knows that there are countries that are taking advantage of the policy and it was hurting European Athletics in the present and future. When BBC asked him about the case of US Army runner Haron Lagat, a 61:01 half marathoner, and fifteen year resident of US, plus US citizen, who could not compete in Valencia, Sven noted that once the IAAF had the policy in place, it should be able to deal with individual sitations.

Haron Lagat, a US army athlete, US citizen and resident of US for fifteen years, was a pace maker in Europe at Diamond league due to his elite status, but he could not compete for US. USATF sent his application, which was recieved in November 2016, in February 2017 to IAAF. That time delay cost Lagat as he is caught in the quagmire of the new policy and old policy, so with the freeze, he can not compete. Lagat is very thoughtful. He wants to run for the country he lives in and loves. He also spoke about the young athletes who are taken advantage of in the situation, and he applauds the new IAAF policy, with the exception of his issues, and the 3 year waiting period.

David Monti, Race Results Weekly editor and keen observer of sport noted, that much of the current controversy came during the 2016 European championships where athletes who had just changed their allegience took gold in both senior women's and men's races. This caused a huge furor in the European Athletics circles. Using executive powers, Lord Seb Coe announced a freeze in changing allegiances.

Mara Yamauchi, British Olympian, noted that the allegiance problem is large, but she had personal experience dealing with dopers, not 'switchers', although she sees the problem.

RunBlogRun noted that, next to doping, the allegiance abuse is one of our sports biggest problems. RunBlogRun applauds the IAAF proposed policy of no changes before 20, one change during lifetime and three year wait for allegiance changes. We also believe that there needs to be a focus on the individual needs of the athlete. RunBlogRun also noted that both issues stem from the money in the sport, giving it a chance for abuse.

In our second go round, Haron Lagat made it clear that he supported the IAAF changes, he did not like the three year wait and thought that marriage could be part of the transfer program as well. That was apparently under discussion.

David Monti was asked by Sarah Mulkerrins, just how Haron Lagat would have done, in the Half marathon yesterday, a team he was named to by USATF, but inelgible due to IAAF freezing of allegiance changes. David, quite diplomatically, I might add, noted that Haron, in the wind could have been top 30, perhaps top 20 runners.

Mara Yamauchi noted that the marriage transfer, was again ripe for abuse and could exclude LBGBT athletes, so she had concern.

RunBlogRun adds post BBC:

Haron Lagat is a unique case. Haron is competing for the US Army, is an adult and has been in US for many years. We hope that the IAAF can consider his case and perhaps, provide him with an exception. The problem is that many countries are abusing the allegiance program, and that is the main issue.

The challenge is this. How does the IAAF get out of the 18th century and move into the 21rst century with both feet, keeping the traditional fans and bringing in the new fans and athletes. How does the IAAF not discourage potential athletes from competing without changing the transfer of allegience, which, as it was, was ripe for abuse?

We applaud the IAAF for making the changes and responding to the problem. We hope that the IAAF can see, in the need for change, will come some fine tuning, and that athletes like Haron Lagat need to be considered.

A great discussion by BBC world service, and special thanks to presenter Sarah Mulkerrins and the BBC team!

IMG_2855.JPGEd Harry, Lee James and Larry Eder, WIC Birmingham, March 1, 2018, photo by RunBlogRun

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