IAAF LET HARON LAGAT RUN! HE IS AN AMERICAN
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American Citizen, Soldier, But Haron Lagat Can’t Compete For The U.S. Let’s Sign this petition to help HARON LAGAT represent His country compete international with IAAF.
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On Saturday, Haron Lagat watched from his home in Colorado Springs as his teammates Paul Chelimo and Shadrack Kipchirchir finished first and second in the 3000m at the 2018 U.S. Indoor Championships. Their performances meant that the two qualified to represent the United States at the 2018 World Indoor Championships. Like Lagat, Chelimo and Kipchirchir are members of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program and are stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado.
But unlike his two teammates, Lagat is not eligible to represent the United States in international competition.
“It was great seeing my teammates make the team,” Lagat said of Chelimo and Kipchirchir’s performances. “But bitter at same time I wouldn't be going to world half.”
The story of why he can't compete for his country stretches back 14 months, involves two governing bodies, an unyielding new rule, and an elite runner who desperately wants to compete for the country where he has lived since 2004.
Two weeks ago, USA Track and Field announced the American field for the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships. It was standard release mostly made up of names, hometowns, and some notable performances. The men’s roster included five men: Sam Chelanga, Diego Estrada, Leonard Korir, Bernard Lagat, and Jared Ward.
Missing from the list was Haron Lagat.
The 34-year-old running journeyman and member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program ran the race of his life at January’s Houston Half Marathon. His time of 1:01:01 was fast enough to qualify him for the World Half Marathon Championships that take place in March 25 in Valencia, Spain. But Lagat was not named to the team.
His exclusion is the result of a saga that dates back to December of 2016 as Lagat has been caught in the web of the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) freeze on transfer of allegiance — the term used to describe athletes who switch the country the represent in international competition. The moratorium has left Lagat, who was born in Kenya but came to the United States 14 years ago, with no country for which to compete. As the governing body has held the line on the policy for over a year, Lagat is sidelined during his first opportunity to race in a global championship of the sport.
“We all know the U.S. distance running is going to the next level,” Lagat said. “To get an opportunity like that, you never know when you’re going to get the next one. This is the best one.”
In the summer of 2016 he attended boot camp. When he finally earned his citizenship he was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. After 12 years, Lagat was officially an American.
“I cried pretty hard,” Lagat said. “I said, ‘Thank God this is over.’”
On December 13 of that year, Lagat sent in his paperwork to USATF to formally change his allegiance from Kenya to the United States. He didn’t think there would be any problem. He’d never represented Kenya in international competition, he’d lived in the United States for 12 years, and he was an American citizen.
But before USATF turned in his application to get final approval from the IAAF, the sport’s governing body instituted a freeze on all transfers of allegiance.
The topic of athletes changing the country they represent has been an issue of growing concern in the running world. It’s particularly controversial with the rise of Middle Eastern countries offering cash to athletes from African nations to switch citizenship.
When the IAAF announced that they were halting any transfers, Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, a member of the IAAF Council, said, “The present situation is wrong. 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.”
None of this related to Lagat, but the freeze was universal and immediate, carving out exemptions only for 16 athletes who were deemed in the process of completing their application......
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