Commonwealth Games: Mike Edwards accuses IAAF of cowardice
|2018 Commonwealth Games|
|Venue: Gold Coast, Australia Dates: 4-15 April|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with extra streams on Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and app; listen on Radio 5 live; follow text updates online. Times and channels|
Former British high jumper Mike Edwards has accused the IAAF of cowardice with the rules of athletics’ governing body set to bar him from representing Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games.
The 27-year-old arrived on the Gold Coast as part of the Nigerian team but is ineligible to compete because he represented Britain at the European Junior Championships in 2009.
Edwards, who was born in Manchester but has a Nigerian mother and citizenship, has protested against his situation with a home-made sign in the athletes’ village.
“It was nine years ago – it is a worse sentence that a drug cheat gets,” he told BBC Sport.
“I am walking around the village with my Nigerian kit and unsure if I can even walk in the stadium and represent.
“It is nearly a decade since I last competed in an international championship, I feel I am being robbed of that opportunity right in front of my eyes.
“I am willing to protest every day in the village. I will do it until I receive a call from [IAAF president] Seb Coe. If he can’t do that he is a coward.
“As a fellow athlete, he can’t hide behind his desk – that is heartless.”
Athletes have in the past transferred nationalities.
Ramil Guliyev competed at the same European Junior Championships as Edwards in 2009 winning gold for Azerbaijan, but took the world 200m title in London last year under the Turkish flag.
However, the process for switching nations was stopped in February 2017 with the IAAF citing concerns over the exploitation of young African athletes, and has not resumed.
Edwards continued competing as a British athlete, notably winning the British Indoor title in February, until last month when he successfully requested release from British Athletics.
The IAAF claims, however, that the Athletics Federation of Nigeria only got in contact on Friday, emailing the governing body a copy of Edwards’ Nigerian passport with no further message.
It insists that he would not be able to jump for Nigeria regardless.
“The transfer of allegiance is still frozen in cases where an athlete has represented an IAAF member federation in international competition,” read a statement.
“Given these circumstances, under current IAAF rules, he is not eligible to represent another country.”
With the start of the high jump competition a little over a week away, Edwards believes his case deserves an urgent and sympathetic hearing.
“I knew there was more significance behind representing Nigeria – they have not had a male high jumper at the Commonwealth Games in 50 years,” he added.
“Representing England? They are taking three guys, they don’t need me.
“I can’t look back at this opportunity and say I passed it up to be another number.”
Edwards, who now describes his teenage appearance for Britain as “both a gift and a curse”, says he has made “countless” personal calls to the IAAF to try and gain permission to compete for Nigeria.
“I should not be penalised as an adult for a decision that I made as a juvenile,” he concluded.
“My competitors are not the guys on the field now, they are the federation.
“Just to compete would be a gold medal for me.”