Belfast Telegraph

Friday 27 May 2016

Biting Back: Spotlight on athletics for all the wrong reasons

By Matt Majendie

Published 16/08/2014

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France poses with the French national flag as he celebrates winning gold
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France poses with the French national flag as he celebrates winning gold

When European Championship steeplechaser Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad entered the home straight then whipped off his shirt and whirled it in the air, before placing it in his mouth and hurdling the final obstacle to victory, the behaviour was disrespectful to his opponents – but worthy of stripping him of gold?

Certainly not. At first after Thursday's race the Frenchman was given a yellow card, effectively a warning for unsportsmanlike behaviour. But following an appeal by the Spanish team, whose athlete Angel Mullera had finished fourth, MekhissiBenabbad was stripped of a third European title.

His disqualification had nothing to do with unsportsmanlike behaviour; it was merely a technicality, the athlete falling foul of competition rules which state that an athlete must show his race number at all times.

With his France vest in his mouth, he contravened that.

Rules are rules but it made a complete mockery of the competition. Mekhissi-Benabbad was streets better than anyone else and the deserving champion.

Quite how Mullera can take home the bronze with any happiness, knowing full well he was only fourth best, is a mystery.

The bitter, ironic truth is that his actions gave athletics – a sport crying out for an increased spotlight whenever possible – arguably more global media attention than anything else in the championships.

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

From the web

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph