Legendary distance runner Haile Gebrselassie today advised world leaders in athletics not to be bogged down by the unprecedented doping crisis that has hit the sport but to seize the opportunity and clean up the sport to the hilt.
Ethiopian Gebrselassie, who is here in India to grace the New Delhi Marathon on Sunday, also asserted that athletics will come out stronger from the controversy that emerged from the Russian doping scandal.
“I think it (the unearthing of widespread doping in Russia) is bad as well as good. It’s bad because people are shocked by the news of this scandal. It’s good in the sense that we have a chance to clean up the sport,” 43-year-old Gebrselassie, who won a gold medal each in the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, told PTI today.
“We are lucky in that sense and we have to seize of the opportunity. The president (of the IAAF) and the Executive Council is working very hard. They are having a thorough investigation into the issue (scandal) and I think athletics will be a clean sport and it will come out stronger,” he said on the sidelines of an event, organised by footwear major adidas who brought him here.
“Even in my country Ethiopia, we have passed strong laws with tough punishment like sending offenders to prison and making doping a criminal offence,” Gebrselassie, who is considered by many as the greatest distance runner of all time, said.
Talking further about the state of world athletics, he said, “The IAAF is looking at new ideas and coming up with new competitions for more spectators to come out and watch and that will make athletics grow further.”
Gebrselassie will grace New Delhi Marathon, which will be flagged off by Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar.
Asked if he knew about Tendulkar, he said, “I know he (Tendulkar) is a big person in India, and the person himself is also big. I know Indians are crazy about cricket. It’s the same thing in Ethiopia and Ethiopian people are crazy about athletics. I am not a cricket fan but I sometimes watch the game once in a while. It’s a little amusing how they count the runs.”
Gebrselassie has also won a gold medal each in 10,000m race in successive World Championships from 1993 to 1999. He had broken 27 world records in different long distance races ranging from 5,000m to marathon in his illustrious international career spanning more than 20 years (1993 to 2013). He is currently the president of Ethiopian Athletics.