World record holder Haile Gebrselassie cannot opt out of the Beijing Olympics marathon and must follow Ethiopian sports rules, the country's athletics federation has announced.
|Haile Gebrselassie holds, literally, the world record |
Gebrselassie, who suffers from exercise-related asthma, said this week he would not run the 42.195-km event because he feared Beijing's air pollution was a threat to his health.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said his withdrawal was fully justified and that no one could force him to compete but the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) said the decision was not his to make.
"It is not up to Haile Gebrselassie to decide on participation in the marathon event in Beijing," EAF technical director Dube Jillo said.
"It is the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, representing the nation, that determines whether Haile is fit to compete in the marathon event in Beijing's Olympics or not."
The twice Olympic 10,000 metres champion, who will attempt to qualify for the 10,000 in Beijing, is one of a long list of athletes and officials to have voiced concern over pollution in the city.
Dube's remarks on Friday seemed to contradict a statement he made on Monday saying that it would be Gebrselassie's own choice whether to run in the marathon or 10,000 metres.
IOC President Jacques Rogge has said the long-distance events could be rescheduled if conditions were too bad.
A BBC report quoted Gebrselassie as saying he would consider running the marathon if the venue were changed.
Gebrselassie was not immediately available for comment.
Dube said a team of doctors and officials would decide whether Gebrselassie was fit to compete in the event.
"The federation will start selection of the country's athletic team at the end of April based on criteria to qualify, which takes athletes' current performances and conditions into consideration," he said.