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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
COLUMBUS — Foreign athletes could be recruited to play high school sports for a handful of private boarding schools — and the Ohio High School Athletic Association would have no chance of stopping them.
Republicans in the Ohio Senate inserted a change in the state budget bill that would allow F-1 visa holders to compete in interscholastic sports and would bar any school district, league, conference or association from having rules to the contrary.
OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Roxanne Price said the change will open the door for recruiting athletes from other countries to gain a competitive edge and possible exploitation of students.
"Someone forwarded an article to the compliance team this school year about international students who arrived in the United States with the promise of fulfilling athletic dreams, but those dreams turned to nightmares," Price said.
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said: "I don't share their concern that a significant number of schools around Ohio are going to recruit really good athletes from other countries to come here. No. I think that's overblown."
Obhof did not disclose which lawmaker added the change to the bill.
"The rationale is if people are attending school here they ought to be able to participate in sports here. The consensus among a great deal of our caucus is that we have too many hurdles in letting people participate in extra curricular activities," he said.
Foreign students study in and visit the U.S. primarily on two types of visas issued by the U.S. Department of State: J-1 and F-1. A J-1 visa is good for one year and cannot be renewed. An F-1 is valid for as long as it takes to finish a course of study.
CurrentOHSAArulesallow exchange students on J-1 visas to participate in high school athletics, as long as certain conditions are met. The amendment inserted in the budget bill specifies that it would only apply to F-1 visa holders who attend an Ohio school that "began operating a dormitory on the school's campus prior to 2014..."
There are eight boarding schools in Ohio, though it's not clear which ones have haddormssinceatleast2014.
In 2001, the Dayton Daily News published a seven-part series that exposed the practice of foreign athletes coming to the U.S. under the guise of educational and humanitarian exchange programs but the true goal was to play basketball and land a college scholarship or go pro.
Contact this reporter at 614-224-1624 or email Laura.
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