Racism row over Dubai Marathon en­try

Sunday Times - - Sport | Athletics | Results - isaac­sond@sun­day­times.co.za By DAVID ISAAC­SON

● 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.

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