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SA federation told to pay $900K to hurt athlete

September 19, 2014

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa’s troubled athletics federation said Friday it would seek guidance from the IAAF after being ordered by a court to pay nearly $1 million to an athlete in compensation for injuries he sustained at a meet.

Athletics South Africa said pole-vaulter Jan Blignaut’s case should not have gone to a civil court under IAAF regulations and should have been dealt with through arbitration instead.

ASA said in a statement it will now seek advice from the international athletics body.

The track federation’s attorney, Monty Hacker, said it would also ask the court for a “stay of execution” against the compensation award.

ASA — already in severe financial trouble — was ordered to pay Blignaut 10.4 million South African rand ($940,000) by a court on Tuesday for head injuries he suffered in a fall at an ASA event in Pretoria in March 2009. Blignaut blamed ASA and its meet officials for negligence and brought a case against the track federation in 2011. He increased his initial claim of around $240,000 to $900,000, ASA said.

ASA said it could be forced into liquidation by the court order after Blignaut had indicated he would resist any attempts to refer the matter to arbitration and wanted his judgment paid immediately and in full.

South Africa’s track federation still hasn’t recovered from the fallout over the Caster Semenya affair five years ago, when an investigation into gender tests conducted on the then-teenage runner by Athletics South Africa officials also found mismanagement and financial irregularities. The president and other officials were fired in 2011.

Recently, ASA needed the IAAF to intervene to settle an internal power struggle.

In its statement on Friday, ASA said the “disorganization” of the past few years had meant it was unable to defend itself properly against Blignaut’s civil claim and an initial court ruling in 2013 that ASA was liable was handed down “by default” because ASA wasn’t represented by any lawyers.

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Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP