Elite Ethiopian athletes protest Rio Olympic selection process

By Elias Meseret

ADDISABAB, Ethiopia (DireTube News) - Elite Ethiopian athletes have protested what they called an ‘unjust’ and ‘biased’ selection process for the upcoming Rio Olympics. In a meeting the senior athletes held at the National Stadium in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday, they have called for transparency and performance based selection process.

“The Ethiopian Athletics Federation is marred with incompetency, bias and hatred towards veteran athletes,” Ethiopia’s long distance running legend Haile Gebreselassie said. “There is lack of capacity with the coaches and with the management. If I was the coach, Kenenisa Bekele would have definitely made it to the team. I think Ethiopia's team in Rio will register a disappointing result if the current selection process continues.”

Kenenisa Bekele was excluded from the Rio Olympic due to what Ethiopian athletics officials said was his inability to meet the selection requirements. “I was excluded from the Rio team due to a wrong qualification process that athletics officials put in place,” Kenenisa said adding that most of the people at the athletics federation who devised the qualification measures lack knowledge about the sport and are driven by personal interest. “There are some people who abuse the athletics federation, especially those at the technic committee.

There is a clear lack of competence and most them are chasing only personal interests.” According to Kenenisa, the Federation’s requirement that included results from the past 2 years was put in place to benefit some athletes and disregard the ones who recently registered good results. He disclosed on Tuesday that he is no more interested in Rio and will reject any calls from the country’s athletics officials even if they called him in again. The elite athletes have set up a 10 member committee including Haile Gebreselassie and Kenenisa Bekele to oversee and orchestrate the concerns they had ahead of the Rio Olympic.

According to Haile, he has concerns with the marathon selection process and he thinks the problems will resurface again for the upcoming track selection process. He said they will take to the streets and go to the country’s politicians if the problem is unresolved soon. “I don’t personally think that Ethiopia will get more than two gold medals in the Rio Olympic, may be in the 10,000m and 5,000m women races,” Haile said.

“I expect Mo Farah will get two medals in the men 10,000m and 5,000m because there is no one to stop him from amongst us. This is personally a troubling thing for me. This is getting too much.” “The requirements we set are clear,” Bililign Mekoya, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation’s Secretary General said. “Any athlete who thinks that the selection process was unfair can come up with a protest letter so that we will reconsider it. In Kenenisa’s case, he hasn’t met the requirements so he couldn’t make it to Rio.”

However, Kenenisa said he has protested in writing to the Ethiopian Athletics Federation about his exclusion but said he get no reply and only heard about his rejection for the Rio Olympic from the media. More than 100 athletes that gathered today have cited problems related to lack of results, unfair selection process, the presence of incompetent coaches and bad management.

“I’m not happy with the Rio Olympic preparation process,” Haile said. “Ethiopian athletes are being tortured psychologically through the selection process. For example, I don’t really understand why Kenenisa was not in the team. I didn’t get it.”