Ziyad’s glory wrongly snatched away ― Hafiz Hassan

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SEPTEMBER 1 ― Our thoughts and heart-felt prayers are with national athlete Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, a shattered man after his moment of glory in the men’s shot put F20 final was cruelly snatched away from him in the event held at the Olympic Stadium.

He broke the world record twice. Then disaster struck as Ukraine lodged a protest with the technical committee, who then disqualified Muhammad Ziyad and two others ― Jordi Patricio Congo Villalba of Ecuador and Australia’s Todd Hodgets ― for supposedly being late to enter the call room.

World Para Athletics (WPA) rejected the three athletes’ appeals. WPA said the decision was based on World Para Athletics Rule 5.5 ― ‘Failure to Report to the Call Room’ which states that in case athletes are not present in the call room at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule they will be shown in the results as DNS (Did Not Start).

Rule 5.5 reads as follow:

Failure to report to the Call Room(s)

“Except as provided below, an athlete shall be excluded from participation in any event in which he is not present in the Call Room(s) at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule. He shall be shown in the results as DNS. The relevant Referee will decide on this (including whether the athlete may compete under protest if a decision cannot be made immediately) and the corresponding reference must be made in the official results.

“Justifiable reasons (e.g. factors independent of the athlete’s own actions, such as problems with the official transport system or an error in the published Call Room schedule) may, after confirmation, be accepted by the Referee and the athlete may then be allowed to take part.”

I am no sports law expert. But a reading of the above rule informs me that if an athlete is not present in the Call Room at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule, he shall be excluded from participating in the event.

Clearly the athlete shall not participate or compete. The athlete’s result shall be shown as DNS.

But the rule allows the relevant referee to decide on this, including to allow the athlete to compete under protest if a decision cannot be made immediately.

The athlete may justify his lateness. If the referee accepts his justification/s (eg. factors independent of the athlete’s own actions, such as problems with the official transport system or an error in the published Call Room schedule), the athlete may be allowed to take part.

National shot putter Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli is pictured in Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympic Games August 25, 2021. — Picture via Facebook
National shot putter Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli is pictured in Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympic Games August 25, 2021. — Picture via Facebook

Now in Ziyad’s case, if he was “not present in the Call Room at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule” then he should be prevented from participating or competing in the event.

But he competed. And broke the world record ― not once, but twice.

Based on the above rule, Ziyad could have competed under protest ― doubtfully ― or the referee could have accepted his reasons for being late.

Or Ziyad could have been late but the referee allowed him to compete when he shouldn’t under the above rule. In which case, the WPA should be stopped from relying on Ziyad’s and the other two athlete’s lateness.

It is my humble submission that Ziyad’s gold and glory have been wrongly snatched away from him.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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