Photo Credit: Ethiopia's Tebalu Zawude Heyi holds Ethiopia's national flag as he celebrates after winning the 25th edition of the men's Rome Marathon on April 7, 2019 in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
‘Truly Absurd': Italian Marathon Under Fire After Banning African Runners
Organizers of a half-marathon in Italy are backing down after initially announcing that professional African athletes would be banned from the race.
Trieste Running Festival race manager Fabio Carini claimed that the ban was sparked out of concern for the “exploitation” of African athletes, according to a CNN report.
Carini reportedly said that the race was open to all except “the top runners, the African professionals.”
“This year we have decided only to take European athletes to make the point that measures must be taken to regulate what is currently a trade in high-value African athletes,” race organizer Fabio Carini said to La Repubblica on April 27.
Carini claimed, without proof, that African runners were being paid less than European-born runners, according to the Guardian.
“Many organizers endure pressure from managers who exploit athletes and offer them at very low costs,” he continued.
After backlash, the marathon announced that it had reversed its decision and would allow Africans to participate in the race, which is scheduled to take place on May 5. But criticism of the initial ban was swift.
“This is truly absurd: professionals are being prevented from taking part in a competition because they come from Africa,” Isabella De Monte, an Italian politician, reportedly said.
Now, according to the Guardian, the Italian Federation of Athletics is investigating. It will investigate “possible violations of its standards and regulations committed by affiliated clubs or licensees.”
Two Burundians placed first in the Trieste Running Festival last year. Olivier Irabaruta was the male winner and Elvanie Nimbona came in first in the female’s race.
Discrimination of African immigrants in Italy is prevalent, if not common.
In 2018, protests broke out around the country after a neo-Nazi reportedly shot and injured six African migrants in a drive-by shooting. According to the Associated Press, the gunman was an unsuccessful politician who was angry about the death of a woman found in two suitcases. There have also been numerous reports of xenophobia towards black people in the country.
More than one million Africans are living in Italy, according to 2018 data from Tuttitalia, representing more than 20 percent of the population. The majority come from Morocco, Egypt, and Nigeria.