by Robert Johnson
(letsrun)—Earlier this year, we told you there was a lot of conflict in Ethiopia between the Ethiopian Athletics feFederation and the Olympic federation. It’s only intensified.
A LetsRunner – the person behind the Ethiopia Run twitter account (@RoochaDotNet) – sent us the following email which explains how people like steeplechase star Lemecha Girma have been added to the Olympic team despite not finishing in the top 3 at the Ethiopian Trials. He even wonders if Kenenisa Bekele also might be added but we think the answer is no as he’s not on the entry list.
In that light, the emailer claims that 2017 and 2019 world champ Muktar Edris has been added to the team but he’s not listed on the Olympic website. So everything you read below may not be 100% confirmed but it’s fascinating drama.
Hello LRC Team,
We have communicated multiple times in the past, but this is about Tokyo 2020. I am an Ethiopian-American track fan. I am a regular LRC visitor for close to 15 years.
I am writing you now because there is a lot of recent “behind the scene” development on the Ethiopian team for Tokyo 2020 and I don’t see you guys covering it. Maybe your resources in Ethiopia haven’t alerted you but there is big news. As you have written in the past, there is a lot of animosity between the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) and the Ethiopian Olympic Committee (EOC). The initial indication of it at Tokyo was during the opening ceremony when only one Ethiopian athlete marched in the parade of nations and there has been a lot of finger pointing between the two entities why Ethiopia was not represented properly at the opening ceremonies. This is a big point of discussion in Ethiopia since Friday. Derartu Tulu was in tears as she was interviewed from Tokyo on a popular radio program in Addis Ababa. She says that she and other team officials of EAF were denied entry to the stadium due to interference from the EOC which is now beyond her ability to deal with and asks for governmental intervention.
Yesterday (Monday) the EAF gave a press conference in Amharic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0YXEIVJPQ0) that called out the EOC for interfering with it’s athlete/coach/support staff selection. Earlier in the day, Hailemariam Amare, the third place finisher at 3000m SC at the Ethiopian trials, was turned back at the airport from boarding a flight to Tokyo (claims he was told his name is not on the approved list) and in his place Lamecha Girma has been sent to Tokyo by EOC as the third athlete to represent Ethiopia in the event. Amare has gone home truly devastated (for real in this case). Also, the EOC has bumped up Muktar Edris on to the 5000m, despite finishing 5th at the trials, and also has added Hagos Gebrehiwot to the 5000m when he didn’t even run the event at the trials. Apparently, Nibret Melak and Milkesa Mengesha no longer have their spot that they earned at the trial.
There is also mention of coaches and support staff being denied travel to Tokyo and the Tokyo delegation consists of many people that have no reason for being in Tokyo. There is widespread condemnation by Ethiopians of the EOC president Dr. Ashebir Woldegiorgis and demanding his resignation.
You will remember that the same EOC president had given assurance that Kenenisa Bekele will be running the marathon in Tokyo. The obvious question now is does the EOC has one more tick up its sleeve and might we still see Bekele vs Kipchoge?? I wouldn’t bet on it, but based on what has been happening in the past few days, that possibility does indeed exist.
Thanks again for all the good stuff on LRC. Hopefully you’ll be able to get additional info from your contacts on the ground in Addis Ababa.
Note, we emailed him or her back and pointed out that Edris wasn’t on the entry list and here is what they said.
Not sure why that is but at the EAF press conference on Monday 7/26 (link in my earlier email below) the EAF person addresses the Edris situation at the 17:04 mark. He states Edris has been added on the team by EOC and has done Covid-19 test to get clearance to travel. The situation is fluid and the EOC Chef de Mission (Eden Ashenafi) has stated that after much lobbying she was able to get Lemecha Girma added after the deadline so Edris may still show up on the start line just the same. What is happening really defies any logical explanation.