Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia’s triple Olympic champion, has reacted angrily to being omitted from the team for next month’s Rio Olympics, claiming that members of his National Federation “know nothing about athletics.”
The 34-year-old 5,000 metre and 10,000m world record holder, who was reportedly not selected for the marathon because he had not run enough big races this year, said: “I’m deeply disappointed and sad.
"I have long overcome my Achilles tendon injury and I was ready for the challenge.
“The Federation set a criteria they knew very well would rule me out.
“I finished third in the London Marathon [in April] when I was far from 100 per cent fit.
“I’d done my preparation in full.
“Everyone knows that London is the toughest marathon except the people from the Federation.
“There is a group there that know nothing about athletics.
“According to their criteria I’m only seventh in the selection list.
“That they did not consider what I have done for Ethiopian athletics is one thing, but the problem is that they have not considered that my performances have been no worse than those who have been selected.”
There is a deep irony in the latest state of affairs given the longstanding pressure Bekele, the runner who finally eclipsed the great Haile Gebrselassie, came under from his National Federation to compete for his country.
More than once Bekele announced his intention of missing some events, such as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships, only to be persuaded to take part.
He now owns 11 World Cross Country golds.
Bekele won gold in the 10,000m at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and in the 5,000m and 10,000m in Beijing four years later.
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation has picked 2016 Tokyo Marathon winner Feyisa Lilesa and 2015 Boston champion Lelisa Desisa, as well as Lemi Berhanu and Tesfaye Abera, for the marathon in Rio.
Ethiopia’s preparation for the Games, which begin on August 5, has been disrupted by concerns over its drug-testing systems, after the IAAF governing body said in March that it was one of five countries that were in "critical care".
The east African nation, which alongside neighbouring Kenya has for many years dominated distance running, subsequently announced that it would carry out doping tests on up to 200 athletes.
The Federation last week banned two athletes, Taemo Shumye and Sentayehu Merga, for four years after they tested positive for banned substances.
It said four other athletes remain under investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the IAAF for doping.