The ongoing transfer of three Jamaican athletes to Bahrain has been described by Warren Blake, President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), as being part of a “developing trend” for competitors from his country.
The transfer of Olympic and world 400 metres silver medallist Shericka Williams and sprinters Kemarley Brown and Andrew Fisher to the Gulf State is still being processed, but all are expected to be able to represent Bahrain at next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the JAAA has raised no objection to the switch.
Other Jamaican athletes have switched nationality in the past – notably multiple world and Olympic medallist sprinter Merlene Ottey, who transferred to Slovenia, United States-born 400m runner Brandon Simpson, who went on to compete for Bahrain, and Jacques Harvey, who recently committed to Turkey.
This is the first time within Jamaica that multiple athletes have made a request at once, however.
Blake confirmed that the athletes' requests were being processed after the trio had written to the organisation expressing their desire to represent the Middle East nation over a month ago.
"It's more of a developing trend as opposed to being a trend," Blake told The Gleaner.
"Athletes have always been switching allegiances and we have also benefited from it up to recently with steeplechaser Aisha Praught, who was born in the US and has decided to represent Jamaica."
Under International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule 5.4, athletes are allowed to compete for another country after sitting out a period of 12 months once there is no objection from their original federation.
If there is an objection, the athletes would then need to wait for three years before representing their new country.
Blake has had lengthy discussions with the three athletes involved and is convinced that they are not being coerced into making the move.
It is expected that the trio, members of the Stephen Francis-led MVP Track Club, will continue to train in Jamaica.
Williams, 29, won silver medals in the 400m at the 2008 Olympic Games as well as the 2009 World Championships.
She last represented Jamaica in the IAAF World Relays earlier this year.
Brown, 23, set a 100m personal best of 9.93sec in finishing second in the 100m at the Summer Universiade in Gwangju earlier this month.
Fisher, also 23, recently ran 9.94 in Madrid.
Blake also pointed out that the JAAA does not stand to benefit financially from any athlete switching allegiance to another country, as this is prohibited under IAAF regulations.
Bahrain, like Qatar, has been involved in recruiting athletes for more than a decade - and particularly Kenyan distance runners.
At least 40 athletes have switched allegiances to this region, encouraged by lucrative deals from the oil rich Gulf States.
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