ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Triple Olympic gold medal winner Kenenisa Bekele said he was bitterly disappointed to be left out of Ethiopia's team for the Rio Olympics and blamed members of the country's athletics federation he said knew nothing of the sport.
"I'm deeply disappointed and sad. I have long overcome my Achilles tendon injury and I was ready for the challenge," the 34-year-old told French sports daily L’Equipe on Wednesday.
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele during a press conference ahead of the 2016 Virgin Money London MarathonAction Images via Reuters / Peter CziborraLivepic
The 5,000 and 10,000 metres world record holder was left out of the marathon team having not run enough big races over the past year.
"The federation set a criteria they knew very well would rule me out," he added.
"I finished third in the London marathon (in April) when I was far from 100 percent 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 than my performances have been no worse than those who have been selected."
Bekele won gold in the 10,000 metres at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres in Beijing four years later.
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation have picked 2016 Tokyo marathon winner Feyisa Lilesa and 2015 Boston champion Lelisa Desisa as well as Lemi Berhanu and Tesfaye Abera to run the marathon in Rio.
Ethiopia's preparation for the Games, which begin on Aug. 5, have been disrupted by concerns over their 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 neighbour Kenya has for many years dominated distance running on the track and roads, subsequently announced that it would carry out doping tests on up to 200 athletes.
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation last week banned two athletes, Taemo Shumye and Sentayehu Merga, for four years after they tested positive for banned substances.
The federation said four other athletes remain under investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the IAAF for doping.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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