Shot putter Justin Rodhe has been ruled ineligible to compete for Canada at this week's world indoor track and field championships and his participation at this summer's London Olympics is in jeopardy after track and field's International Association of Athletics Federations rejected a request by Athletics Canada to recognize the U.S.-born athlete as a Canadian who could represent the country at the indoor worlds in Istanbul, Turkey.
The IAAF said Rodhe, 27, a native of Bainbridge, Ohio did not meet its time regulations for citizenship.
The thrower – who won a silver at the Canadian championships in 2010 – has been living and training in Kamloops, B.C., for close to four years and is married to Canadian hammer thrower Megann Rodhe. He acquired Canadian citizenship on November 1, 2011. According to Athletics Canada spokesman Mathieu Gentes, Rodhe never represented the United States at a meet. But the IAAF regulation calls for an athlete to be a citizen of the country he or she wishes to represent for a two-year period immediately preceding the international competition in question.
The IAAF declined to waive the rule. Rodhe won't be eligible to represent Canada in international competition until October 31, 2013.
"Istanbul was not a competition for me to simply gain experience; I was prepared for a great result. I am starved for opportunities to test myself against the world," Rodhe said in a statement. "This is an unfortunate event. My coach (Anatoliy Bondarchuk) and I have worked very hard to prepare for my first international championship," Rodhe said.
He has been training with throwing specialist Bondarchuk – the 1972 Soviet Olympic gold medalist in hammer – and Olympic medal favourite Dylan Armstrong, who had hoped to have him as a teammate in Istanbul. Rodhe won a silver medal at last year's Canadian championships and has a personal best throw of 19.52 metres.
Athletics Canada submitted a written request to the IAAF on January 24, 2012 to notify the body that Rodhe had received Canadian citizenship and asked that his performances in the IAAF statistics should be recognized as such.
"First and foremost, Athletics Canada feels terrible for Justin. He's done all the right things and followed all of the appropriate processes since his move to Canada in 2008. We've supported him through the whole process and thought the battle was won once he finally received full Canadian citizenship on November 1, 2011," said Rob Guy, Athletics Canada CEO. "The IAAF instituted a new rule (the two-year waiting period) to stop countries who were outright buying athletes from others. Unfortunately, in this instance, the rule is punishing an athlete – and a country – who has never engaged in this practice."
Guy says the fight goes on the get Rodhe eligible for the Olympics. "Athletics Canada will fight with everything we have to ensure that the two-year waiting period is waived by the IAAF and that Justin can set his mind at ease and earn a spot on the London 2012 Olympic team," he said.