By Nick Butler at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo

Wilson Kipketer expressed some concern about athletes switching nationality ©Getty ImagesWilson Kipketer, the former world record holder for 800 metres, has expressed concern about athletes switching nationality and competing for new countries without living there and contributing to the local community.

This follows a somewhat farcical athletics competition at the Asian Games in Incheon where 14 of the 22 individual running events were won by athletes of African origin who had switched nationality, either to Qatar, Bahrain or United Arab Emirates.

Kipketer, a four-time world champion whose time of 1min 41.11sec stood as a record mark for 13 years until David Rudisha bettered it in 2010, had switched from Kenya to Denmark in 1990 after moving to the European country as an exchange student to study engineering.

It took him seven years to become a full Danish citizen and the International Olympic Committee barred him from competing for his adopted country at Atlanta 1996 because he did not have a Danish passport.

Speaking here during the Sportel World Sports Content Media Convention, Kipketer, who remains the indoor 800m world record holder, said we must accept that "sport opens the doors to countries and markets...and is a way to put a country on the map".

Wilson Kipketer switched nationality from Kenya to Denmark but changed for different reasons than many allegedly do today ©Bongarts/Getty ImagesWilson Kipketer switched nationality from Kenya to Denmark but changed for different reasons than many allegedly do today ©Bongarts/Getty Images

But he then admitted to being worried about the circumstances prevalent today.

"I don't know if these athletes from Bahrain and Qatar come over from [places like] Kenya and Ethiopia and live in and really contribute to the community and that country, as I did when I came to Denmark," the 41-year-old, who married Danish girlfriend Pernille in 2000, told insidethegames.

"These things have to be looked at in a different way.

"I am not saying it is the wrong thing, but what is worrying me, is if you look at Youth or Junior Championships or the Youth Olympics and you see somebody who is 16 or 17 running for another country.

"The question I have is do the parents of these kids live in that country?

"There should be some regulation, it is not about the people who are doing this but about if everyone is applying to the rules."

Nigeria-born Femi Ogunode who returned from a two-year doping ban earlier this year, competed for Qatar at Incheon 2014 and set an Asian record time of 9.93sec, later adding the 200m. 

Femi Ogunode was one of many African born athletes to excel for an adopted nation at Incheon 2014 ©Getty ImagesFemi Ogunode was one of many African born athletes to excel for an adopted nation at Incheon 2014 ©Getty Images

China's Su Bingtian, who finished runner-up behind Ogunode over the shorter distance, told Agence France-Presse that the Gulf states' African contingent is "unfair", because "they are taller and have a longer stride", meaning Asian born athletes are at a physical disadvantage.

Moroccan born Mohamad Al-Garni also achieved the 1500m and 5,000m double for Qatar, while Kemi Adekoya won both the women's 400m and 400m hurdles after switching from Nigeria to Bahrain earlier this year without the head of Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Solomon Ogba, even being aware.

One of the best known nationality switches involved Saif Saaeed Shaheen, who, as a Kenyan named Stephen Cherono, won gold at the Junior World Championships in 1999 and Commonwealth Games in 2002, before switching to Qatar in 2003.

Along with a name change, Shaheen was reported to have received a sum of $1 million (£620,000/€790,000) to become a Qatari citizen, although the athlete himself denied this.

In the aftermath of this and many similar incidents, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki made a speech before the 2005 World Championships in which he said: "Let us resist the temptation to change our citizenship for financial gains."

But, speaking during the Asian Games, Olympic Council of Asia director general Husain Al-Musallam claimed he was "not worried" that an influx of African talent could discourage young Asian athletes from taking up the sport.

"These athletes will raise the standard and they have met all the eligibility requirements and they are eligible to compete," he said.

"They [Asian] athletes will work harder to achieve a higher standard."

He did add, however, that hundreds of applications from African-born athletes hoping to switch allegiance are continually being turned down by Gulf States.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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