Kenenisa , Tirunesh and 33 Others Ban Lifted. Free to Run at London Olymics 2012

By Mike Rowbottom

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) has performed a U-turn in lifting its suspension of double Olympic champions Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and 33 others which had put their appearance at the London 2012 Games in jeopardy.

EAF President, Bisrat Gashawten Tirfe, told The Associated Press by telephone: “We have agreed to discuss all the matters concerning their problems.”

The athletes were suspended last week for not reporting to the Federation’s training camp.

As insidethegames reported exclusively, Bekele was so upset about the ban, which he only heard about after watching a report on Ethiopian television, that he raised the possibility with his manager, Jos Hermens, of running for another nation.

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The crisis started last Thursday when the EAF wrote in an email that it had decided that “any international competition, including the 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 medallist in the 10,000 metres.

The EAF had set up a training camp for its leading athletes early this month to improve preparation for London after a poor showing at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, last August.

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Kenya won seven gold medals at the Worlds compared to only one for Ethiopia.

Kenya was third in the overall medals table 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 10,000m in Daegu, but ended the year on a high by winning the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Brussels in 26min 43.16sec, replacing Britain’s Mo Farah, who won world silver and world gold over 5,000m, as the fastest of the season.

Contact the writer of this story at mike.rowbottom@insidethegames.biz

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