Because of the intervention of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, a marathon offering $100,000 in prize money and featuring world record-holder Alberto Salazar and Robert De Castella, the second-fastest marathoner in history, has been denied sanctioning and will not take place.
The action is the latest development in a long dispute over the role of agents in a sport that is evolving toward professionalism. The race, scheduled April 17 in Brisbane, Australia, was organized by the International Management Group, agent for the two runners, and was to be televised by CBS.
Officials of The Athletics Congress, the U.S. national governing body of running and track and field, regarded the scheduling of the event two days before the Boston Marathon, as a challenge to their authority. The Boston Marathon is the qualifying race for the U.S. marathon team for the 1983 world championships.
Friday, John Holt, secretary of the IAAF, instructed the Australian Amateur Athletic Union not to authorize a sanction because the race was organized "at the instigation of an agent of two of the protagonists."
In a telephone interview from London, Holt said he is notifying all IAAF members that it is a violation of IAAF rules for agents to set up races or to act as intermediaries between athletes and meet directors. Holt said that while there is a place for agents in the sport, "the one thing we do not want is agents telling the boys where or when to run."
Salazar said, "It's a power play. They want to be pulling the strings."
Drew Mearns, vice president of IMG, in charge of its running and fitness division, said he was notified yesterday that a contingent sanction to hold the race in Auckland, New Zealand, had been withdrawn by the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Union. Mearns said no reason was given.
According to Mearns, IMG was the promoter in Australia but not in New Zealand. "These two athletes will compete at some point in the future, hopefully this spring, when they decide to, not when the federation or the IAAF tells them they have to, or for that matter, when we tell them they have to."
On Jan. 3, Ollan Cassell, executive director of TAC, issued a memo saying he would enforce IAAF rules banning the use of agents to negotiate with meet directors on an athlete's behalf.
Sources in the running community say Cassell tried to use his influence to deny the race a sanction. Cassell said, "I heard there was money involved. I called the IAAF to ask if there was a sanction for the race. I was doing it to protect the athletes' eligibility. That's the extent of my involvement."
An IAAF spokesman said the matter was first brought to its attention by someone in Britain and that Cassell's involvement was part of his duty as a member of the eligibility subcommittee.
Mearns said he would request a meeting with Cassell to discuss the issue. "Our next step is to seek to come to some agreement with the IAAF as to whether and where we can operate within the sport. If they take the position they seem to be taking, that is openly hostile and possibly illegal to exclude us from the business, we'll operate outside their jurisdiction."
Asked if that meant IMG would consider creating a professional running circuit, Mearns said, "It's an option . . . They certainly are creating an incentive for someone to create a rival organization and rival governing body. Somebody will do it. I'm not saying we'll do it."