Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia’s Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion, is among 35 athletes banned from competition by their national federation in a row over training.
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation, angry over flagging results in recent years, summoned 200 athletes to a training camp two months ago ahead of the World Indoor Championships in March and the London Olympics in July and August.
But Bekele and other athletes, including Olympic women’s 5,000m and 10,000m gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba, ignored the call-up, technical director Dube Jilo said.
“We have banned 35 athletes, including Kenenisa and Tirunesh, from competing in any event,” he said. “It has been two months now since we summoned every athlete in contention, but this group has so far failed to respond.”
He said the ban would be reconsidered as soon as the athletes reported for training. Bekele, 29, who has yet to decide if he will compete in London, where Britain’s Mo Farah would be one of his main rivals, said he had been injured.
“At the moment I have not made up my mind whether to defend my 5,000 and 10,000 gold medals at the London Olympics, it is of course something I would like to do,”
“My injury is quite serious and I would not be able to bring back the performance of old for the time being,” he said. “It will take weeks before I return to ordinary training, and two to three months before I return to competition.”
The 29 year-old, who had not raced on the track since 2009 because of injury, dropped out of the 10,000m at last year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, after 10 laps.
For years a powerhouse in long-distance track events, Ethiopia has lost ground.
“There is a lack of commitment, and our preparations haven’t been up to standard so far,” Dube said. “We have to distinguish who is in good shape ahead of events.”