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Kenyan athletes cry foul over IAAF move to scrap long distance races

The decision to cut out long distance races by international governing body for athletics, IAAF in the Diamond League circuit has been met by strong opposition from Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes.

This even as IAAF completes plans to sideline the 5,000 Meters and 10,000 meters events which for the longest time have been dominated by East Africans, namely Kenyans and Ethiopians. At their council meeting in Doha, Qatar IAAF ruled that their decision to remove the races from the broadcast programme was based on consultation and extensive research.

Furthermore, the body said that removing these long distance races, would make the Diamond League more marketable as these races slow things down.

The rule which is set to take effect in 2020, allows organizers to entirely scrap off these event and should they allow them to take place, the races will not be televised. From next year, the longest distance track race in a Diamond League meeting will be 3,000m.

Kenyan athlete Caroline Chepkoech, who trains and runs the 5000 Meters race opposes this decision stating that it is detrimental to the careers of aspiring and upcoming athletes. While speaking to international media, Chepkoech further lamented that although she prefers to train for 5,000 meters, she is now forced to train for the 3000 meters race too.

Athletics Kenya President, Lt. General (rtd) Jackson Tuwei expressed concern that exclusion of these races spells doom for African athletes as they would lose competition opportunities due to the process. IAAF President Sebastian Coe and CEO Jon Ridgeon however reassured Athletics Kenya that changes to the IAAF Diamond League format next year will not disadvantage African athletes.

Athletics Kenya President, Lt. General (rtd) Jackson Tuwei

The IAAF Diamond League is an annual series of elite track and field athletic competitions that began in 2010. The league’s aim is to “enhance the worldwide appeal of athletics.

In a new scoring system introduced in 2017, the top eight athletes at each meeting are awarded points (8–7–,6–5–4–3–2–1), but these points only determine which athletes qualify for the discipline finals in Zürich and Brussels. The athletes who win at the finals are declared IAAF Diamond League Champions, and the allocation of the overall prize money is likewise determined solely by the results of the final.

It will be interesting to see how this decision by IAAF plays out in regards to African athletes who have dominated the long distance races since the 1960s.

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