Mekhissi-Benabbad responds to criticism of Kemboi Disqualification


PHOTO: French steeplechaser Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad in advance of the 2016 Meeting de Paris (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly), used with permission.

Part of the irony of Rio 2016 was the plethora of disqualifications. The Men's 5000 meters was an absolute joke. But, the travesty, in my mind was the disqualification of Ezekiel Kemboi in the steeplechase. I have reviewed the race nearly a dozen times and can not see how Kemboi's actions interfered with Mekhissi-Benabbad, the bad boy steeplechaser of French athletics. "Common sense", as Mark Twain noted 120 years ago, "is just not that common anymore." It is a travesty that Ezekiel Kemboi did not get the bronze medal he deserved.

I like Mekhissi-Benabbad. He is as French as they come. I think he is a tremendously talented athlete, and love his fearless racing. I am not trying to disparage Mekhissi-Benabbad, I just did not like the DQ in the steeplechase. Our sport is not ballet, as a old Soviet era coach noted back in the 1956 Olympics over the steeplechase, and things happen at the end of a race. Not all of them should be dealt with in a punative manner.

This is Chris Lotsbom's column on Mekhissi-Benabbad at the Paris DL press conferences. These pressers are some of my favorites on the circuit. In French and English, the pressers give you a dozen athletes in about four hours. Your head is spinning afterwards. But with some espresso (they have a machine in the media room), and the conviviality of the French media (Agence France and the L'equipe team), I always found time to get in a half dozen or more interviews the day before the meeting in Stade de France.

Special thanks to our friends, Chris Lotsbom and his coverage of Lausanne DL and Paris DL!

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.

PARIS (26-Aug) -- Ezekiel Kemboi finished third in the Olympic Games final of the steeplechase, but was disqualified after a protest by the French federation on behalf of fourth-place finisher, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad. Kemboi stepped on the white line between cones as he emerged from the water jump. Although a clear rules violation, it was unlikely that it had any impact on the order of finish (Kemboi finished well ahead of the Frenchman, 8:08.47 to 8:11.52), so that led some fans to feel that the French protest was unsportsmanlike.

Race Results Weekly asked Mekhissi-Benabbad about the incident today at the pre-race press conference for tomorrow's Meeting de Paris, part of the IAAF Diamond League.

"What I do regret is the judges did not make their work," Mekhissi-Benabbad said through a translator. "There are rules, we have to follow the rules. I've been disqualified in Zurich because of the rules. Here, the judges did not make their work. I am upset for Ezekiel, that is true. But he made a mistake, mistakes. That's the only thing I can say."

At the 2014 European Championships Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was disqualified for removing his shirt while celebrating in the final 100 meters of the steeplechase. He subsequently won the 1500m title.

"First of all, again, there are rules," he continued. "If it would have been on the other side, I know that Kenya would have made a call against me and disqualify me. It's an honest way for the meet. I just want to take an example: if someone is simulating a football player, simulating on a football surface and he gets a penalty against the other team, this guy sometimes people say he made a good thing. This is what is bizarre with the rules in sport. There are rules, we have to follow the rules and not cheat.

"I'll just add that Maradona hit a goal with his hand and he is an idol in Argentina. He cheated. I did not cheat. This is what I have to say about this."

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