I’m interested to know whether other European countries have experienced the same level of controversy about members of their teams who have switched allegiance. France has a ton of athletes who have switched from north and west Africa over the years. Francis Obikwelu, Eunice Barber, Wilson Kipketer, Mirela Manjani, Naide Gomes and Niurka Montalvo all represented other countries in major championships before switching allegiance and becoming regional or global champions. Were they accused of being ‘plastic’ in their adopted countries or embraced by team-mates and public from the start?
I don’t think it is totally comprehensive, but there seems to have been roughly the same number of athletes leaving GB as there are athletes joining. In terms of success, Fiona May alone won more World, European and Olympic medals for Italy than the rest of the GB incoming transfers put together, so in terms of success, we seem to have made a net loss…
I don’t have a problem with any of the recent 5 declaring for GB. Zharnel Hughes had no choice if he wanted to compete in the Olympics, just as Shara Proctor and Delano Williams didn’t before they started representing GB. In the cases of the US-based athletes, I don’t think anyone would dispute that they are all more likely to make the GB team rather than the US team and also more likely to acquire funding. Therefore I can see the decision being something of a no-brainer for them if they want to compete at the top championships and develop some sort of livelihood in the sport. The fact that they are all eligible by virtue of their British passports makes it a bit of a moot point in any case.
I wonder whether some of the barbed statements made by some of the GB athletes recently are more to do with the timing of the announcement just a few weeks before the trials. I’m sure all male sprinters and female sprint hurdlers in the country would have been aware of Hughes and Ofili and their potential to compete for GB, but maybe their intention to make the Beijing team this year was unexpected. I wonder if the IAAF could invoke a transfer window period where athletes would have to declare any transfers of allegiance in the off-season in order to compete internationally for that country for the remainder of the year?