Racism row over Dubai Marathon entry
● Athlete-turned-agent Lee-Roy Newton is crying foul after he was sidelined while trying to get one of the Ethiopian runners he represents into the Dubai marathon.
Newton has alleged he was the victim of racism after his efforts to get Mosinet Geremew into the race, from as early as October last year, failed.
The final rejection came in an e-mail on January 8, in which event director Peter Connerton told Newton: “We won’t be able to take your athletes this time as we just have too many athletes from Ethiopia.
“It is becoming a problem as we can get few other nationalities because the pace is too fast. Manage some Kenyans.”
But Geremew was indeed given a late entry into the January 26 race — which he won in a 2hr 04min 00sec course record to pocket the $200000 first prize — but, according to Newton, his appearance there was organised by Italian agent Frederico Rosa.
Newton, a member of South Africa’s world champion 4x100m relay team from 2001 and representative of reigning world long-jump champion Luvo Manyonga, wrote to Connerton asking why Geremew was declined when proposed by himself, a black agent, but accepted at short notice when proposed by Rosa, a white European agent.
“Is Mr Connerton only prepared to accept clients proposed by European (white) athlete representatives? [And] does the Dubai marathon condone conducting business with agents who are not the bona fide representative of the athlete?”
Rosa didn’t respond to Sunday Times questions e-mailed to him.
Connerton did, saying he found “this accusation [of racism] quite disgusting”. He defended his January 8 email. “Of the 50 athletes in the elite field 39 were Ethiopian, six Kenyan, one Bahrain (also Ethiopian), one China, one Finland, one Vanuatu and one Japanese. So one European athlete out of 50.
“As a gold label marathon you must have four nationalities to retain that status. It is very difficult to get four nationalities who can run to the standards we need for Dubai.”
Connerton added that he had personally supported African athletes, especially young debutants looking for a marathon start “and this is known in the business”.
But he didn’t explain the apparent turnaround on Geremew.
Connerton further provided e-mail exchanges showing he had accepted at least five of Newton’s Ethiopian runners between 2013 and 2017. In one, from December 2013, Newton praised the integrity of the Dubai marathon.
Newton said he had also complained to the IAAF, the sport’s world governing body.
Mosinet Geremew will run in Dubai.