Legendary Ethiopian runner, Haile Gebreselassie, has sharply criticized the athletics federation and the overall performance of Ethiopian athletes at the just ended Olympics in Rio.
The now retired long distance great told a news conference in the capital Addis Ababa that it was unacceptable that the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) is celebrating the country’s rather dismal performance.
“They (EAF) say the results are not bad and even encouraging. This is unacceptable,” said the double Olympic gold medalist over 10,000m. Gebreselassie won two successive golds at the Olympics of Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000).
I say it's discouraging! It's like a sick ignored its problems. If we do not accept our illness, it can kill us.
“I say it’s discouraging! It’s like a sick ignored its problems. If we do not accept our illness, it can kill us,” he bemoaned.
Ethiopia bagged eight medals at the Olympics with only Almaz Ayana winning a gold medal in the 10km women event, finishing with a resounding world record to boot.
The country situated in the Horn of Africa ended 44th in the medal ranking of countries, far behind Kenya, its neighbour and historic rival of long and middle distance events. Kenya finished 15th with six gold medals (including four in marathon events).
He tasked that the federation had to meet immediately over the results in Rio and fashion a path to avert another failure. ‘‘The representatives of the executive committee have to go. If not, the next results will be the same as those of Rio”, launched Haile Gebrselassie.
“Rio is finished but in four years it will be Tokyo. In eleven months, it will be the IAAF World Championships in London. We must prepare now!”
He is on record as the first man to run a marathon in less than 2 hours and 4 minutes.
The former champion also spoke about the recent cases of alleged doping Ethiopian athletes.
“We must not wait until it is our turn to be excluded. We must resolve this problem, find out who is guilty, who is not,” he emphasized.
At least five distance runners tested positive to meldonium, the same substance that earned tennis player Maria Sharapova a two year ban. The athletes are currently under investigation.