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IAAF stops changes of allegiance, will set up new system

MONACO (Reuters) - The governing body of world athletics (IAAF) has put an immediate stop to changes of nationality by athletes, saying the system has become open to abuse and rules are being manipulated.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said a working group would be set up to agree new rules by the end of the year.

"It has become abundantly clear that with regular multiple transfers of allegiance, especially from Africa, the present rules are no longer fit for purpose," Coe told reporters on Monday.

"Athletics has to be based on national teams and is particularly vulnerable," Coe added.

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"The rules do not provide protection necessary for individual athletes, they are open to abuse. Many federations regularly receive reports of athletes who are available for trade."

The IAAF said the ban would not affect 15 applications to switch allegiance which have already been made.

Unlike other sports such as soccer, athletics allows its competitors to switch nationalities even after they have represented one country at international level.

Several dozen athletes changed allegiance on the eve of last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, the African representative on the IAAF Council, will lead the working group.

"The present situation is wrong," Malboum said. "What we have is a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder. Our present rules are being manipulated to the detriment of athletics’ credibility.

"Lots of the individual athletes concerned, many of whom are transferred at a young age, do not understand that they are forfeiting their nationality," he added.

"Some are running for countries but are not citizens of those countries... at the end of the competition they are not citizens of those countries, they don't have any future."

In another decision, the IAAF Council approved Coe's proposal to end formal bidding processes for the hosting of major athletics events, including the world championships.

Instead, the IAAF said it would assess "strategic goals" for growing the sport, "targeting cities from countries and regions which will best assist the delivery of those aims".

It said the new selection process would start with the awarding of IAAF events after 2021.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond and Clare Fallon)