Oceania Athletics Association “has no business” says Interim President

Promising Samoan shot put and discuss thrower Margaret Satupai

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: 23 February 2012: The Oceania Athletic Association (OAA) has no business in the affairs of the Samoa Athletic Association (SAA).

This was the statement by the Samoa Athletics Association’s Interim President and Secretary to the Samoa Association of Sports & National Olympic Committee (SASNOC) Lepale Niko Palamo.

Talking to Talamua today, Lepale did not want to comment on other issues as they have recently set up an Interim Executive to look into the problem. He said he is accountable to the Board before commenting further.

Lepale was appointed by SASNOC to lead the newly established SAA Interim Executive body as President. His appointment came after SAA President Lalau Willie Fong could not be located and complaints from the association were piling up.

Palamo who has had close associations with Lalau in Athletics for many years, is leading the investigation into these complaints and oversee Yvonne Mullins, OAA Executive Director’s visit to Samoa last week.

Lepale however confirmed Mullins visit was part of her research in the development of SAA locally.

“She can report on whatever she came here to do, but can not interfere with the running of the local association,” he said. “Overall, the OAA has no business with SAA.”

Asked whether Mullin’s visit was a threat, Lepale said no.

Asked where SAA would compete at if OAA and IAAF dropped them, Lepale said the associations internal matters should not be used as an “exit bullet” by the international bodies.

“OAA can only interfere if SAA fails to comply with their international standards,” said Lepale. “I believe SAA has not breached any international commitments.”

Tough Times for Samoa Athletics 
He confirmed that SAA is going through tough times at the moment but “not major ones”. He said these are internal problems that will be solved internally. One of the problems he mentioned is the lack of communication between the Board members and failing to notify the Sports body of it’s affairs.

Mullin’s visit according to one of the SAA Board members should not be taken lightly by the Board as despite it all, SAA’s membership at the OAA and the International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) could be nullified if they failed to live up to the international standards SAA had endorsed.

He agreed with Lepale that OAA can not interfere in the running of the local association, however, SAA is a member of OAA and IAAF and they (SAA) have to comply with whatever is laid down by these international bodies to maintain the continous support of the international bodies.

The Board member believes that if OAA and IAAF dropped SAA, it would be the end of the road for “many good Samoan young athletes”. He also said that SASNOC took too long to respond when they finally set up an Interim Executive body to monitor the associations situation.

Lepale disagrees. He said that SASNOC never left SAA behind. “But in accordance with the sports bodies manadate, SASNOC gives the sports bodies ample time to handle their affairs. The only time SASNOC steps in is when their assistance is needed.”

Lepale also said when SASNOC is certain that a sports body has failed to remedy whatever problem they have, SASNOC automatically takes control, which resulted in the SAA Interim Executive body.

“The same rule applies to all sports bodies under the umbrella of SASNOC. SAA is not the first sports body to face such problems. It happened to the Weightlifting, Boxing and Soccer.” said Lepale

He said they could only hope that the problem would be remedied soon as there are international and regional tournaments he believes local athlets are eligible to compete in.

The Executive Director of the Oceania Athletics Association, Yvonne Mullin, says they had some concerns over how last year’s Oceania Championships in Samoa were organised.

She says while they’re still working through some issues, things are now moving in the right direction.

“We want to make sure that their athletes can get to the Olympics this year. If the association wasn’t in good standing with the International Federation that would be impossible so it’s incumbent on us to make sure that that works. I think that with the relationship we have with the incoming committee and SASNOC, most importantly, the Samoan Government and the Sports Minister that this will happen.”