Athletics

Comrades, ASA still stumbling over non-payment issue

2018-06-15 12:55
Alexandra Morozova (Gallo)

Cape Town - Athletics South Africa (ASA) and the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) are still trying to come to a resolution regarding the non-payment saga of Russian athlete Alexandra Morozova

Morozova finished third in the 2018 edition of Comrades and second in 2017, but she is yet to see any of her cumulative R390 000 prize money due to the fact that Russia has been suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) following the unearthing of one of the biggest doping programmes in sports history. 

Morozova needs to be declared as a 'neutral' athlete by the IAAF in order to run competitively, but she has not been put on that list and, as a result, she has not been paid. 

Why, then, was she allowed to run in the first place? 

That's where it all gets a bit confusing.

CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn met with ASA president Aleck Skhosana on Thursday in an attempt to find clarity on the matter, but after that meeting it seems that ASA's position that the athlete should not be paid remains the same. 

Morozova believes she has been cleared to compete given that she has a letter from IAAF road running manager Alessio Punzi stating that she had never been affiliated to the Russian Athletics Federation in the first place and that she was not on the list of IAAF's banned Russia athletes. 

That letter was forwarded to ASA after Morozova wasn't paid after the 2017 race, but didn't result in any action. 

Sport24 spoke to Winn on Friday, and the complexities of the issue soon became abundantly clear. 

"I met with Aleck Skhosana yesterday and he is quite adamant about the position of ASA, which is that we may not pay Morozova until such time as she has been declared by the IAAF as a neutral athlete," Winn explained. 

The confusion over the letter that Morozova has circulated, Winn says, is that it does not confirm that she has been placed on the IAAF's list of 'neutral' list of athletes. 

In fact, of the 100-odd Russian athletes that competed at this year's Comrades, only one produced official documentation confirming their status as a neutral athlete. 

"Aleck Skhosana maintains that only the council and the congress of the IAAF can declare Russia either banned or suspended and that that decision has not been reversed," said Winn. 

While the prize money does come from the Comrades Marathon's own coffers, they still need the approval of ASA to make payments, Winn added. 

"We're affiliated to ASA. We don’t exist in a vacuum ... we're affiliated to KZN Athletics and ASA," she said.

"You're part of a system and you have to abide by the rules and there are conflicting interpretations of the rules but, at the end of the day, when the president of the national federation gives us a clear directive that we may not pay then it makes it difficult for us."

When asked how it was possible that Morozova was allowed to register and enter Comrades again in 2018 given what happened the year before, Winn did not have clear answers. 

"We run a race ... and we are sanctioned to run a race under the rules of KZN Athletics and ASA," said Winn.

"ASA and KZN Athletics appoint various officials that actually officiate at the race. 

"There was a whole big thing, even prior to the race, as to whether or not they were going to be able to run. At the end of the day, three or four days before it had still not been resolved."

Winn said that it was only on the Thursday morning before the race that Comrades received word from the technical officials that all foreign athletes would be permitted to run. 

While she does have empathy for Morozova, Winn added that she (Morozova) was "not 100% innocent". 

"Throughout the past year we have been communicating with her and we've also referred her directly to ASA," Winn said.

"We've told her it was out of her hands and she has been advised that she needs to get herself onto that IAAF neutral list.

"Then there would be no problem, and one can't help but wonder why if she didn't want problems she didn't get onto the list."

That process, Winn explained, was an expensive one due to the fact that the athlete would need to be tested independently several times to be declared clean. 

"The fact of the matter is that there is a cloud over the Russian athletes (because of the doping ban) and the only way to lift that cloud is to get them onto the neutral list," Winn added.

Sport24 also spoke to Skhosana, whose response suggested that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel for Morozova.

"My guys are working on it," he said in in a brief conversation. 

"We have never had issues with Russians. They have come here and run and claimed their prizes. The only thing is that Russia is suspended, so we are treading very carefully for our own athletes and our own credibility as a country."

Skhosana is expected to release an official ASA statement on the matter in the next day or two. 

Read more on:    asa  |  comrades marathon  |  athletics

 

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