Athlete managers warned to keep distance
Athlete manager Jos Hermens denied reports he has been suspended by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation over unwanted intrusion into Ethiopian Olympic team preparations.
The founder and head of Global Sports Communications, based in Nijmegen, Holland, is one of the world's largest track and field management agencies and represents many Ethiopian athletes.
Among them are Haile Gebrselassie, the current world marathon record holder, and Kenenisa Bekele, who holds the world records at 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
Reached on a family holiday in southwestern Holland, Hermens, 58, acknowledged receiving an email from Ethiopian athletics officials.
"I am not suspended," he said. "It was more or less a warning to not get involved with the athletes until after the Olympics.
"They sent me an email saying 'we have always had good cooperation and thanks for everything you do for the Ethiopian athletes but lately there has been tension within the team.' It was a request to keep a low profile."
Gebreselassie won the 10,000-metre gold medals at both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and at four consecutive IAAF World Championships (1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999).
Bekele is the reigning Olympic and world 10,000-metre champion.
Another of Hermens' clients is Sileshi Sihine who won silver medals at both the 2004 Olympics and the 2007 IAAF World Championships. All three will represent Ethiopia in the 10,000 at the Beijing Games.
Millions in appearance fees
Gebrselassie, 35, has made millions of dollars in appearance fees and endorsement contracts over the past fifteen years thanks to the efforts of Hermens, who was himself a two-time Dutch Olympian in the 10,000.
"We will continue to do what is best for our athletes and that should be what is best for the Ethiopian Federation," Hermens said. "I don't see a problem."
Several foreign managers are involved with Ethiopian athletes.
Recently, the Ethiopian Federation made changes to the Olympic team, replacing athletes already named to the team with alternates but Hermens says he has nothing to do with that.
"If an athlete is replaced by an athlete who is one of ours we can't help that," he explained. "Of course, some athletes get upset. That's the politics of selection and has nothing to do with us."
Mark Wetmore of Boston-based Global Athletics and Marketing says he received a similar email.
He represents four-time IAAF world champion Tirunesh Dibaba, 2004 Olympic 5,000-metre champion Meseret Defar and Canadian Olympic 1,500-metre runners Kevin Sullivan and Nate Brannen.
"Basically it asked for us to respect the Ethiopian Federation's training camp for the athletes," Wetmore said. "I have no problem with that."
Hermens reports that all three of his 10,000-metre runners are in great shape and that Gebrselassie's recent calf strain has not restricted his training.
He said Gebrselassie is looking forward to representing his country in Beijing but is looking more to the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 28. He set a world record of 2:04:26 at that event a year ago.