Posted by: Joe English | March 16, 2008

Racing: Ethiopian officials to Gebs, not your choice NOT to compete in Beijing

This past week, we’ve been following the story of Haile Gebrselassie and his participation in the upcoming Beijing Olympic Marathon. Let’s quickly recap:

On Monday, the story was leaked from undisclosed stories and at the time was denied by Gebs. Later in the day, he confirmed that he indeed did not plan to compete in Beijing due to concerns over air quality and his exerised induced asthma. He said that he had planned to make the annoucement later, but that since word had leaked, he would confirm it now. He did leave open the possibility that he might still run if the venue were change to somewhere with healthier air. The Chinese quickly rebuffed that idea, saying essentially that the venue was set, thank you very much.

Now the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) is weighing in and they don’t appear to be too happy about the situation.

Quoted in the Guardian UK, EAF technical director Dube Jillo said, “It is not up to Haile Gebrselassie to decide on participation in the marathon event in Beijing. . . . It is the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, representing the nation, that determines whether Haile is fit to compete in the marathon event in Beijing’s Olympics or not.”

OK, interesting.

Dube went on to say that a team of doctors and officials would decide whether Gebrselassie was fit to compete in the event. “The federation will start selection of the country’s athletic team at the end of April based on criteria to qualify, which takes athletes’ current performances and conditions into consideration.”

Now as much as I want to see Haile in the Olympic Marathon, if Dube is saying that the Ethiopian Government might somehow be able to force him to compete, that seems a little extreme. Athletes know their bodies better than anyone.

This situation sounds a little like someone saying that they don’t want to drive their finely tuned Ferrari race car on a dusty dirst road, because they don’t want to damage it. And then someone trying to tell them to do it anyway. “We’ll tell you if your car can handle that dirty road,” they might say. I don’t know, if I were the owner of that car I might have words for those people.

Since the world record holder is involved, I bet we’ll be hearing more about this story very soon.

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  1. Joe, thanks for posting this. It is an interesting situation. It sounds like the Ethiopian Government is doing a little posturing and basically saying that before Haile can say that he is chosing not to participate the Ethopian Government has to decided that they want him to participate.

  2. Yes, I’m curious to see how this turns out.

    I’d put my money on Haile.


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