Ethiopia, Kenya push back over decision to drop 5,000 from Diamond League

5,000 meters
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The IAAF’s decision to drop the 5,000 meters from its Diamond League track and field series has been met with strong resistance from Ethiopia and Kenya, where one former world champion accused the sport’s governing body of trying to “kill long-distance running.”

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation has written to IAAF president Sebastian Coe asking the governing body to reconsider the change, which comes into effect from next year and was part of a larger overhaul of the series.

Athletics Kenya said it would also argue for the 5,000 to be restored and would ask African nations to come together in opposition to the IAAF’s decision at a meeting of the African track body next month.

The IAAF this week announced a plan to revamp the Diamond League from 2020, reducing the series to 12 meetings and a finals event. There will now be 24 disciplines at each meet — 12 for men and 12 for women.

The 5,000 meters was one of the disciplines to be cut, leaving the 3,000 as the longest race on the schedule.

“They want to kill long-distance running,” two-time 10,000-meter world champion Moses Tanui of Kenya said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “I think (the reason) is the dominance of our athletes in long distances.”

Ethiopia’s opposition came in a letter from track federation interim president Derartu Tulu. She wrote in Thursday’s letter addressed to Coe: “We totally disagree with the decisions made.”

Tulu, a two-time Olympic champion in the 10,000 meters, urged the IAAF to reconsider.

″(It’s) not fair to countries like ours who are very competitive in long-distance running, and these distances are our cultural sports and also our identity,” she wrote.

The Diamond League is the highest-profile athletics competition outside of the world championships and the Olympics. But its format underwent a yearlong review in an attempt to find a product that was more pleasing to television viewers and more engaging for fans.

The changes were aimed at creating “a faster-paced 90-minute television event” for each meet, the IAAF said. In an effort to find a more compact, TV-friendly format, the 5,000 meters was one of the events to lose out.

In a statement to the AP on Friday, the IAAF noted that last year only three regular-season Diamond League meetings opted to stage a 5,000-meter race for men, and only two put on a women’s 5,000. From next year, meets will still have the option of including a 5,000, just outside the 90-minute TV window.

“We made the decision to reduce the 5,000m distance to a 3,000m distance based on clear market feedback from the broadcasters and fans,” the IAAF said.

Both the Ethiopian and Kenyan federations also complained about a lack of consultation with them or their athletes before the IAAF announced the changes. The IAAF said it did receive feedback from distance runners.

Still, the 5,000 at the Diamond League gave Kenyan distance runners precious chances to earn a living in prize money as well as prepare for the worlds and the Olympics, Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei said.

“That chance has been curtailed and therefore we are appealing to the IAAF to consider that position,” Tuwei said.

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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