translated by Brett Larner
Questions have arisen at the IAAF concerning the eligibility of comedian Hiroshi Neko, 34, to compete in the London Olympics marathon following his transfer of citizenship to Cambodia last October and his naming to the Cambodian Olympic team in March. On April 12 it was revealed that the IAAF has asked the Cambodian federation for an explanation of the circumstances surrounding Neko's selection, raising doubts that Neko will be approved to compete.
Regarding transfers of nationality, at its general meeting last year the IAAF introduced new rules effective this year pertaining to athletes who have not previously run for their country's national team. For such athletes, if less than one year has elapsed since a transfer of nationality the athlete must either
- Have lived continuously in the adopted country for at least one year, or
- Have received special exemption from the IAAF council.
Neko is active as an entertainer in Japan, making it very unlikely that he meets the criteria for having resided in Cambodia for one year. To receive a special exemption it would be necessary for the Cambodian federation to file a petition, but, an IAAF official commented, "This is granted only in very serious, significant cases and there must be a deep and compelling reason," leaving the question of whether an exemption would be granted unclear.
Translator's note: Cambodian men's marathon national record holder Hem Bunting will be trying to break the 2:18 Olympic marathon B-standard at Sunday's Paris Marathon.