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  • Don't lose trust of people: Gebrselassie on Gatlin issue Posted on 20 October 2014

     Following criticism over American sprinter Justin Gatlin's nomination for the IAAF Athlete of the Year Award, legendary long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie said it was normal that "once an athlete loses trust he loses everything". 

    "I read the news coming here (to India) ... Once you have this problem (doping ban), nobody believes you anymore. This is normal. When they lose trust they lose everything," Gebrselassie said in an interview on the eve of the Bengaluru Marathon organised by Adidas on Saturday. 

    The Ethiopian has won two Olympic gold medals, seven World Outdoor Championship medals and set dozens of world records, including the marathon best of 2:03:59 in Berlin in 2008. 

    After causing outrage in some quarters, Gatlin was ditched from the final shortlist for International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)'s World Athlete of the Year. 

    Gebrselassie will flag off the Bengaluru Marathon on Sunday at the Kanteerava Stadium. Gatlin, who has twice served doping bans, was a controversial inclusion on the original 10-man shortlist announced on October 3. 

    Asked whether honouring dope offenders was right, Gebrselassie diplomatically said it was better that athletes did not lose others' trust. 

    "I have to be diplomatic. I don't want to say this is wrong, that is right. I don't want to push others saying - you should do that, and not do that - it is not fair. The best you can do is not lose others' trust," he elaborated. 

    Asked about the secret behind African athletes excelling in long distance races, Gebrselassie said just like cricket has been a big opportunity platform for youngsters in India to excel, running was a big sport in Ethiopia which gives opportunity to youngsters back home. 

    "What is important for a sprinter and a cricketer in Ethiopia and India respectively is to have a big opportunity to excel in big sporting event in a particular country," said the 41-year-old athlete. 

    "In India and Ethiopia, cricket and running are big sporting events and hence players and athletes get opportunity to excel, and that is the secret behind African nations churning out long-distance runners year after year - like India produces cricketers year after year," he added. 

    On what can Indian long-distance runners learn from African runners, Gebrselassie said the country has potential to produce good runners, but only thing they have to start winning big tournaments. 

    "I think in this country, there is an opportunity to produce long-distance runners ... The only thing what they miss is winning the first prize in big tournaments. After that (winning first place) believe me, many will come," he said. 

    "Bodies of the Indians are perfect for any long-distance runner. They look strong, specially those who live across the mountain close to the altitude. They have opportunity." 

    Mo Farah, the British long-distance runner, is one of the promising athletes outside African nations, making impact in the event, Gebrselassie said. 

    Farah, a Somali-born British long-distance and middle-distance runner, is the current Olympic, world and European champion in the 5000 metres and 10,000 metres. 

    "At the moment, Mo Farah from England is the one (who is making an impression who is a non-African athlete, but still it would be a big challenge to compete with long-distance runners from Ethiopia and Kenya," he said. 

    Asked how India will be benefit from holding Marathon events, Gebrselassie said it will become a fashion for the people to run. 

    "When I organised 10km race in Ethiopia, which started in 2001 - since then many Ethiopians started run, and with this it has become a fashion," he said. 

    He said it took him five years to convince the Ethiopian government and ministers, of holding Marathon events, money wise. 

    "About the money involved. It took five years to convince people and ministers about conducting a Marathon event in my country. Now, they are eager to hold such events. Thousands are running now," he said. 

    Replying to a query, Gebrselassie said his new business venture is growing coffee plants in Ethiopia. 

    Gebrselassie is also known for his business ventures. He founded Haile and Alem International PLC company in Ethiopia, which has built three hotels, two primary schools among other things. 

    He also has plans to build an SUV assembly plant. Most recently, his company has begun construction of a housing and condominium complex.

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