By Duncan Mackay

Athletics South Africa logoJune 23 - Athletics South Africa (ASA) have been suspended by the country's own National Olympic Committee after its members ignored sanctions placed on its ruling Board - leaving its top athletes in limbo.

The decision by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) means the country's athletes are barred from competing at multi-sport events, including next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which they are responsible for selecting, until the dispute is settled. 

"The membership of ASA, as a national federation, under the regulation of SASCOC, is hereby suspended with immediate effect," said SASCOC President Gideon Sam.

"At this juncture, SASCOC has decided that athletes of ASA will not be included in future Team SA squads for the Commonwealth Youth Games, Commonwealth Games, ANOCA (Association of National Olympic Committees of AfricaYouth Games, Zone VI Games, All Africa Games, Olympic Youth Games and the Olympic Games."

Sam said all athletes registered with ASA would be removed from the SASCOC's Operation Excellence (Opex) programme, which provides funding and support.

Caster Semenya London 2012Former world 800m champion and London 2012 silver medallist Caster Semenya could be among the top South African athletes to be affected by the row between ASA and SASCOC

The tier one athletes on the programme include former Beijing 2008 long jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena, London 2012 200 metres finalist Anaso Jobodwana and African women's javelin throw record holder Sunette Viljoen.

In addition, former world 800m champion and London 2012 silver medallist Caster Semenya - who is not part of the Opex programme - would also not be eligible to compete at Glasgow 2014 and Rio 2016 unless a solution is found. 

But, in a twist, South African athletes will be allowed to compete at the World Championships in Moscow in August because the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) continues to support ASA.

The row had started in April when SASCOC suspended the ASA Board after an internal power struggle between its President James Evans and vice-president Hendrick Ramaala, formerly South Africa's top distance runner who won the New York City Marathon in 2004.

The SASCOC placed ASA under the charge of an independent administrator, but Evans has claimed that the Board had been reinstated after a special general meeting in Pretoria yesterday.

Evans said the move followed the IAAF making clear in a letter to SASCOC on June 4 that it still recognised the ASA board as being in charge.

"That letter confirmed that they [the IAAF] will not tolerate external interference or influence in the governance of their member federations; that they do not accept the fact that SASCOC appointed an administrator to run Athletics South Africa and that they still recognise the Board elected in 2012," Evans said.

SASCOC, however, announced today it was suspending ASA in terms of Clause 9.3 of its Articles of Association which gave it the power to "suspend, fine and terminate" the membership of any federation which infringed its constitution or brought the organisation into disrepute.

Gideon Sam in front of SA Olympic logoSASCOC President Gideon Sam has adopted a hardline in the row with ASA, despite them having the support of IAAF, the world governing body

"SASCOC has done its utmost best to restore order and sanity during the debacle at ASA," Sam said.

He claimed Evans had been impeached by ASA members, and had retaliated by unconstitutionally suspending seven Board members.

Evans claimed he had not been removed, but had been impeached in an unconstitutional process, and had not been charged or given the right to defend the allegations against him.

"SASCOC's untiring efforts to correct the maladministration in ASA, and not to support the attempts of Mr Evans to regain the Presidency of the federation which impeached him by a vote of 33 to one with four abstentions, has been hampered by the IAAF," Sam said.

"We have engaged with the IAAF verbally, in writing and via a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on June 15.

"It has been evident that the IAAF does not recognise SASCOC as a sports authority in South Africa.

"The IAAF would rather support ASA, which has no leadership."

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