LJ relieved suspension lifted

LJ van Zyl (Getty Images)
LJ van Zyl (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - South African athletes were relieved after the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) last week lifted Athletics SA's (ASA) suspension, national 400m hurdles record holder LJ van Zyl said on Wednesday.

At the end of June last year, Sascoc suspended ASA after its members ignored sanctions placed on its board.

ASA was suspended by the athletics federation in terms of Clause 9.3 of its [Sascoc] Articles of Association which gave it the power to "suspend, fine and terminate" the membership of any federation which infringed the Olympic body's constitution or brought the organisation into disrepute.

However, earlier in June, the IAAF reaffirmed its support for the elected ASA board members, led by president James Evans.

The suspension would have meant that South African athletes would not have been allowed to participate at this year’s Commonwealth Games and Youth Olympic Games.

Sascoc said the decision "would give our athletes the opportunity to represent our country at various international levels...".

Before the suspension was lifted South African athletes voiced their concerns that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) could suspend the national federation.

"As athletes we are very afraid that the IAAF may suspend Athletics South Africa which would not only mean we could not compete internationally and thereby not give our sponsors exposure upon which our livelihood rests," Van Zyl said in a statement as the spokesman of Concerned Athletes.

"But we could also not represent our country, which is a matter of great pride to us."

Van Zyl, however, said on Wednesday that the athletes should not allow boardroom squabbles affect them and they should stay focused on their preparations for upcoming competitions.

In the earlier statement Van Zyl said it was difficult being a full-time athlete in spite of the ongoing boardroom battles and it had become "almost impossible" being one in the country.

"The conflicting media reports are damaging the sport and our profession to such a degree, that we are finding it even harder than normal to stay in the sport as sponsors do not have confidence in the sport and are not staying involved or are being scared off."

In November, in the absence of ASA president James Evans, an annual general meeting was held in Johannesburg where the existing ASA board was dissolved and a seven-member interim board, led by Sello Mokoena, was appointed.

While Sascoc recognised the interim board, Evans said the interim committee did not receive backing from the IAAF because it did not receive approval from the global athletics body in advance.

The athletes have called on administrators to remain level headed and keep the interest of the sport and the athletes at heart and not take any action that could be to their detriment.

It was not clear whether the IAAF would allow South African athletes put forward by the Sascoc recognised interim ASA board.

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