World track's governing body warned today it may suspend athletes who renege on their commitments.
International Amateur Athletic Federation President Primo Nebiolo said the IAAF would no longer tolerate the growing practice of athletes switching meets at the last moment just to earn more money.
At a news conference, Nebiolo said the IAAF would view "very seriously" the cases of any athletes who do not fulfill their commitment to national federations and organizers of IAAF-sanctioned events.
'Ready to Suspend Them'
"We are ready to suspend them," Nebiolo said. "It is not easy for us to stop this practice . . . we are working on an agreement to allow suspension of any athlete who does not accept the rules."
Nebiolo said a proposal to suspend athletes will be on the agenda at the next IAAF Council meeting in Tokyo in January.
"We will take serious decisions from next year against athletes who do not accept to take part in national championships, or other official championships," he said.
IAAF General Secretary John Holt said Nebiolo had written to all 184 member federations, urging strong action against athletes who commit themselves to meets, then refuse to run.
"The president's letter made clear that where an athlete is selected for a national, area or world championship, or a match, the athlete is not permitted to renege on his or her obligation," Holt said.
'Element of Choice'
"Track and field is not a professional sport and there is still an element of choice. But we are concerned for the good of the sport when an athlete promises to go to one meet and then decides, for reasons known only to himself, to go to another."
Holt said the specific case of Olympic 100 meters and long jump champion Carl Lewis, who refused to take part in the U.S. championships this year because of a dispute with the American governing body, had not been discussed.
Ollan Cassell, executive director of The Athletics Congress, governing body of the sport in the United States, and a vice-president of the IAAF, said meet organizers across the world were becoming increasingly frustrated at athletes pulling out and switching to events offering more appearance money.
Out of Hand
Nebiolo also said under-the-table payments to athletes had gotten out of hand.
"We have rules by which money earned by athletes must go to their federations," Nebiolo said, referring to the trust fund system in track and field. "We know that sometimes the money does not go to federations but behind the table."
"To be frank and sincere, the biggest problem we have is in the United States," Nebiolo said.