I am writing this a couple of hours after posting a news story about the ongoing transfer of nationality involving three Jamaican athletes, including Olympic and world medallist Shericka Williams, who now want to compete for Bahrain.
The story drew one swift, succinct response from a reader: “Absolutely disgusting".
The transfer of allegiance, to use the official phrase employed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), has become an increasingly common feature in recent years – not just within athletics, but a wide range of Olympic sports.
Fifteen years ago, another Gulf State, Qatar, incurred widespread criticism after effectively buying up a team of Bulgarian weightlifters to represent it at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
At the time, Qatar pointed to the Olympic charter by way of justification: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport in accordance with his or her needs.”
Earlier this year Qatar, hosts to the World Men’s Handball Championship, reached the final with a team of largely imported talents.
Under the IAAF rule 5.4, athletes are allowed to compete for another country after sitting out a period of 12 months once there is no objection from their original Federation.
If there is an objection, the athletes would then need to wait for three years before representing their new country. Jamaica is not objecting.
But it is not just oil-rich Gulf States which are luring athletes to their shores. Last month, for instance, Britain assimilated five new talents into its potential squad of team members, prompting World Indoor 60m champion Richard Kilty to tweet: “Good for fans to see home grown talent representing GB…oh wait".
Kilty might not have liked it, but the arrival under the Union flag of this quintet of new talent had some pretty basic logic to it.
Zharnel Hughes, who trains with Usain Bolt in Jamaica, was born in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla, which has no Olympic Federation of its own. In Olympic terms then, he is stateless – and the IAAF rules explicitly allow such a transfer to “a territory’s parent country.”
US 100m hurdler Cindy Ofili is the younger sister of Tiffany Porter, who made the same switch before the London 2012 Olypics. They have an English mother.
High jumper Victoria Dronsfield has transferred from Sweden to Britain, where her father was born.
Two other US athletes, Shante Little, who competes in the 400m hurdles, and Montene Speight, a 400m runner, hold dual nationality.
But to return to the latest proposed switch involving the three Jamaicans.
In an interview with The Gleaner, Warren Blake, President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, described the application by Williams, along with Brown and Fisher, as being part of a “developing trend” for competitors from his country.
Well, it’s true that one of the highest profile athletes to switch representation was a Jamaican – multiple world and Olympic champion Merlene Ottey, who moved to live and train in Slovenia in 1998 and became a citizen of her adopted country four years later, going on to represent them in the Athens 2004 Olympics.
But Ottey had a very particular reason for disengaging from her native land. After missing one of the three automatic qualifying places for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Ottey got her National Federation to give her the place of a younger sprinter, for which she received widespread criticism, some of it from her own team-mates in the Olympic Village.
Ottey subsequently commented: "After Sydney I said I wasn't going to run another race for Jamaica...because I felt like the Jamaicans were trying to push me out of the sport and I really needed to prove my point, that I might be 40 but I can still run.”
Putting aside such exceptional cases as Ottey’s, there are a number of standard reasons why athletes switch nationality – and a semi-formal sliding scale of acceptability for such a move.
Five months before the London 2012 Games, the then President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, rehearsed a couple of the more “legitimate” transfer scenarios as he mentioned family reasons or a lack of support from one’s home Federation.
He criticised those who change allegiance "because there is a bigger gain to be made," adding: "I have reservations in some case of athletes who obviously don't lack any support emanating from their local sporting and Governmental committees who still change nationalities.
"We cannot legally stop that because it is a sovereign matter. But let me tell you that, very frankly, I don't love that."
Rogge was speaking in the wake of the quintessentially Briitish storm-in-a-teacup over the newly arrived former US high hurdler, Porter, who was named as team captain at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and fatuously challenged by an agenda-ised member of the British media to sing the National Anthem.
This patronising and arrogant request – what next? Recite a Shakespearean sonnet? Name England’s winning World Cup team of1966? – nevertheless pointed up the deep and fearful instincts which lurk within all of us, and in every society, when presented with the possibility of an alien other who May Not Be One Of Us.
And it is an instinct which transcends the little realm of sport.
As it happened, Porter has an English mother and has had a British passport since birth.
With reference to Porter, Rogge said, "I believe the athlete has a mother or a father who is of British nationality. There is already then a good reason maybe to switch nationality."
But Porter, who was brought up in Michigan, would not have passed on the other two criteria of legitimacy. There was no family reason for her to move, nor had she suffered from a conspicuous lack of support in the United States. The realpolitik of the situation was that, talented as she was, Porter was far from sure of making any US team for championships or Olympics because of the huge depth of talent in her particular event.
For two of the three Jamaicans in the news, the motivation appears partly the same. In most countries, having run the times they have, the two sprinters would be first on the team sheet. But this is Jamaica.
None, however, can claim a “conspicuous lack of support”, given their membership of the Stephen Francis-led MVP Track Club, where they are expected to remain while training.
And all can expect a very generous level of remuneration which is, shall we say, always a strong point in any transfer to one of the oil-rich Gulf States.
Using the Rogge yardstick, then, this latest example of “transfer of allegiance” is not entirely loveable. But calling it disgusting is surely excessive.