OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Moroccan mayhem leads to Skah ban

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The Independent Online
KHALID Skah, of Morocco, briefly won the title of the most unpopular Olympic champion in history yesterday before being disqualified after coming home first in the 10,000 metres to a howl of disapprobation.

The title passed to the Kenyan whom Skah had outsprinted, Richard Chelimo, although the result of a Moroccan appeal, to be heard at 9.30am local time, will be announced today.

The judges ruled that Skah, who had broken away in company with Chelimo with seven laps to go, had received illegal assistance from a lapped fellow runner from Morocco, Hammou Boutayeb, who appeared to converse with Skah before accelerating and running in front of Chelimo.

Rule 143 (2) of the International Amateur Athletic Federation states 'no competitor shall receive assistance during the progress of an event. Assistance is the conveying, by any means, of advice, information or direct help and includes pacing in races by . . . runners or walkers lapped'.

Chelimo claimed: 'Boutayeb was there to slow me down.' As the three runners stayed together, the crowd began to react with fury, and at one point the track referee, Carl Gustaf Tollemar, chairman of the IAAF technical committee, ran on to the track and warned Boutayeb, attempting to pull Boutayeb away.

Skah, who won a ferocious sprint before parading and kissing his national flag with a wide grin to a reception that resembled those given to pantomime villians, repeatedly denied that there was any plan to do Chelimo down.

But the objection of the Kenyans immediately after the race was upheld. The Moroccans appealed in their turn within the statutory half-hour period. 'I did not care about the crowd,' Skah said. 'I won for my country. I did not cheat. This is against Morocco. This is against sport. I could not talk to Boutayeb. I was too tired. If you go back to the world cross-country, the Kenyans stopped me. They hit me.'

Chelimo was concerned not only about Boutayeb's blocking tactics but also about Skah's conduct during the final phase of the race. 'With four laps to go, when I started to open it up, Khaled was behind me and was trying to step on my legs. I told him, either get back or go past. He did it again.'

He was asked whether the Moroccans had spoken to each other. 'Yes, they were. I don't care if they talk all the time, but the problem was the time when they were pushing me. When somebody is lapped, he is supposed to get out of the way. I told him, 'Boutayeb, that's not good.' He didn't understand.'

What did he think of the crowd's reaction? 'I'm happy about what they did.' Boutayeb eventually abandoned the race.

Skah won a 10,000m bronze medal in last year's world championships, one place behind Chelimo.

Salvatore Antibo, of Italy, who inherited the bronze medal after Skah's disqualification, with Addis Abebe, of Ethiopia, moving up to silver, said: 'I regret what happened today. I am happy with my fourth place. But the regulation applies to everyone and I regret that a great athlete such as Skah should find himself in this position.

'This is not the medal I would have wished to win, but I accept it willingly.'

Paul Evans, of Britain, was 10th, and Richard Nerurkar 16th.

At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Chris Brasher was intially disqualified after coming home first in the 3,000m steeplechase for interfering with the Norwegian runner Ernst Larsen. Three hours later the jury overturned the disqualification.

Earlier in the evening, the Unified Team 10km walker, Alina Ivanova, was disqualified under rule 191 (4) which covers lifting - having both feet off the ground at the same time.

The gold medal passed to China's Yueling Chen.

(Photograph omitted)

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