MASERU — At least 13 local athletes were on Friday not sure if they would compete in today’s Soweto Marathon in South Africa.
That’s because the Lesotho Athletics Amateur Association (LAAA) refused to give them permits required to take part in international marathons.
The LAAA insisted it could only grant them the permits if they submitted their personal sponsorship contracts to the association.
The 13 athletes had not done so, LAAA spokesman Sejanamane Maphathe told the Sunday Express.
“Yes, we have said that if they do not disclose their contracts with their sponsors to us we can’t give them those permits,” he said.
“That is the position of the association.”
The LAAA’s position left the athletes bemused and angry.
Eight of them — Mabuthile Lebopo, Rasta Mohloli, Thabang Masupha, Lephethesang Adoro, Mpesela Ntlotsoeu, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, Moeketsi Mosuhli and Thabiso Chobokoane – on Friday picketed at the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission offices in Maseru.
Warinyane Lebopo, Lebenya Nkoka, Sechaba Bohosi, Teboho Sello and one Telang had already left the country without the permits by Friday morning.
Speaking on behalf of the athletes, Lebopo told the Sunday Express they had been asking for the permits for the past three weeks.
According to the International Association of Athletics Federations’ Article 4: “No athlete or a club may take part in a foreign country without a written approval of the member to which the athlete or club is affiliated.”
It continues: “No member shall allow any foreign athlete or club to enter any competition without such a permit certifying that the athlete or club is permitted to compete in the country.”
Lebopo said the LAAA was frustrating the athletes for no valid reason.
“It’s been three weeks since we started coming here asking for the permits to compete at the Soweto Marathon,” he said.
“They have not issued the permits and have now decided to close the office because they know very well we are supposed to leave today.”
Lebopo said the athletes didn’t understand why the LAAA was demanding their personal sponsorship contracts.
“I called the (LAAA) president this morning and he told me the association wants our sponsorship contracts before they can give us permits,” he said.
“I don’t understand why they are only demanding the contracts now because they have been issuing permits since the beginning of this year.
“I for one ran the Two Oceans, Vodacom and Bloemfontein marathons this year and they gave me a permit.”
Last week the LAAA said it suspected athletes were deliberately underperforming while on national duty to “save” themselves for personal races.
The association has announced its plans to ban two athletes who failed to finish the marathon at the Commonwealth Games in India last month.
“Their hearts are still bleeding because of the India defeat and they are punishing us now,” Lebopo said.
“If they want a fight they will get it.”
“They know very well that we are making a living from South African races,” he added.
Mohloli, the other athlete, said they were going to push for the dissolution of the LAAA executive committee.
“The only thing that we must focus on is to push for the dissolution of this committee beginning next week Monday,” he said.
“The association must be run by former athletes who understand fully what we are going through.”