World body says clean record required for athletes seeking welfare grant

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FILE PHOTO: Track and Field: IAAF World Athletics Championships
FILE PHOTO: Track and Field: IAAF World Athletics Championships

(Reuters) - Olympic-bound professional athletes must have clean anti-doping records to be eligible for a one-off grant aimed at assisting them financially during the COVID-19 crisis, World Athletics said on Friday.

The sport's governing body said athletes will have until May 31 to register for the grant from a $500,000 fund jointly set up by World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation to support competitors whose incomes have been hit.

The novel coronavirus outbreak, which has infected over 4.39 million people globally and caused more than 296,900 deaths, has affected the schedules of several athletics events, with the Tokyo Olympics postponed to next year.

"The IAF has allocated a substantial sum to the fund, and we hope to raise more through private donations from friends of our sport," World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe, who is chairing the group assessing applications for help, said in a statement https://www.worldathletics.org/news/press-releases/athlete-relief-fund-criteria.

"But it has become apparent the resources must be focused on athletes who are likely to be competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year and are struggling to pay for basic necessities due to loss of income during the pandemic."

World Athletics said athletes who have qualified for the Tokyo Games by meeting the entry standard and those who have not had anti-doping rule violations would be eligible for grants.

They will also have to demonstrate justifiable need through "significant" loss of income in 2020 compared to 2019.

"We know this is a stressful situation for many athletes and we are trying to provide meaningful assistance ... so they can continue to train for the competition season we have scheduled for August to October, and for next year's Olympics," Coe said.

Athletes ranked in the top six in their event in the world rankings, those who have finished in the top six of any Gold Label Road Race in 2019 or have earned more than $6,000 in prize money from the Diamond League last year cannot apply.

This year's international athletics season will begin with a Continental Tour Gold event in Finland on Aug. 11 and end with a Diamond League meeting in China, World Athletics said Tuesday.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)