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Kenenisa, Tirunesh ‘banned’ by federation

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NAIROBI, Kenya, January 20- Double Olympics champions, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba are among 35 top athletes banned by Ethiopia Athletics Federation (EAF) in a move that could lock them out of the London 2012.

Respected American athletics website, Letsrun.com broke the news on Thursday night with the federation said to have banned a slew of top runners indefinitely.

“This morning LetsRun.com received a text from Ethiopian journalist Teferi Debebe, stating he had heard on a radio station that 35 top athletes including such luminaries as 5000 and 10000 double Olympic champions Kenenisa and Tirunesh, 2009 world 10,000 silver medallist Meselech Melkamu, and 2009 world half-marathon bronze medallist Aberu Kebede had been banned.

“Of the 35 athletes, 17 are runners that specialize in the 5,000 and 10,000. Additionally, Debebe said that six coaches/athletics managers were reportedly also banned,” the website reported with a news clip from Ethiopia’s state broadcaster in the report confirming the news in Amharic.

The athletes were banned for because they did not report for national team training and declined to attend required EAF training sessions.

Apparently, the federation named 223 Olympic hopefuls over a month ago and asked for everyone to start preparing for London under the supervision of the EAF Letsrun.com added.

EAF technical director Dubie Jilo stated that the athletes must start following the directions of the federation or a new generation of athletes would be taken to London.

The news is sure to cause ripples in the run up to London with Kenenisa and Tirunesh the only athletes who brought gold for Ethiopia in Beijing. Other top athletes affected the 2008 Africa 10,000m champion, Meselech who was the chief guest at the Soya Awards last month.

Speaking to Capital Sport over the news, Athletics Kenya (AK) chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat, said the development was not a cause for the country whose runners have immeasurably suffered at the hands of the pair to uncork the champagne.

“We cannot celebrate since this are not the only people who can stop us from winning the gold medal. We can say if it is true they will not compete at the Olympics that it is one down and two to go,” Kiplagat said.

He extended his support to his EAF counterparts provided it was true that the affected athletes disobeyed their governing body.

“Discipline is first and foremost thing and it’s a different story they don’t want to honour the ruled provided for them. Ethiopia is not like Kenya, there athletes must compete with rules set out by the Government and federation and they can be banned even from money races. Here, we cannot do that.”

The story is developing though it remains highly unlikely Ethiopia will sacrifice the runners who have kept their nation on the distance running map for the past decade.

– Sourced from Letsrun.com

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