Ethiopia clears Olympic champion Bekele

Updated: January 24, 2012

BRUSSELS (AP) — The suspension of Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele and 34 others was lifted Tuesday, clearing the way for the Ethiopian great to run at the London Games.

Ethiopian Athletics Federation President Bisrat Gashawten Tirfe told The Associated Press by telephone that “we have agreed to discuss all the matters concerning their problems.” The athletes were suspended last week for not reporting for an early pre-Olympic camp to improve performance and competition.

Bekele won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the Beijing Olympics and holds the world record in both events. He was suspended along with along with Tirunesh Dibaba, winner of the two long-distance women’s titles in Beijing. The suspension would have prevented them from running at this year’s Olympics.

Under the agreement though, the federation said all athletes would still have to report to camp in the future, despite calls from Bekele to be allowed to continue individual training.

Federation spokesman Fikru Tekele said the 35 athletes have agreed to “fully follow” the federations training, without any exceptions.

“Kenenisa is our hero and we have great respect for him, but the rules don’t discriminate,” Fikru said. “To ensure results in London we should be tight, control them and protect them from injuries.”

Bekele’s agent, Jos Hermens, said his client had been extremely angry about the suspension and even inquired about changing nationality. Hermens also said training camps on a hard Mondo track as proposed would worsen injuries instead of helping prevent them.

The crisis started last Thursday when the federation wrote in an email that it “has decided any international competition including Dubai Marathon is closed from January 20, 2012 until end of the (Olympic) event on August 2012″ for the 35 athletes who did not attend the camp early this month.

The group also included Dibaba’s husband, Sileshi Sihine, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000.

The federation had set up a training camp for all leading athletes early this month to improve preparation for London after an abysmal showing at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, last August.

Kenya won seven gold medals at the worlds compared to only one for Ethiopia. Kenya was third in the overall medals tables with 17, while Ethiopia was ninth with only five.

Bekele has struggled for most of the past two years with injuries and dropped out of the 10,000 in Daegu.

The decision allows the suspended marathon runners to compete in next Sunday’s race in Dubai.


Associated Press writer Luc van Kemenade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

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