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Marathon great Gebrselassie says athletes could have died because of heat conditions at Doha worlds

Distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie says it was a mistake to hold the track and field world championships in Qatar and that marathon runners could have died from the heat.

Nearly 1 half of women marathoners dropped out of race run in hot, humid conditions

Turkey's Fadime Celik is taken away on a gurney during the women's marathon at the track and field worlds in Doha, Qatar. Severe heat forced 28 runners to drop out of the race on Friday. (Getty Images for IAAF)

Distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie says it was a mistake to hold the track and field world championships in Qatar and that marathon runners could have died from the heat.

The women's marathon Saturday started at midnight to dodge the worst of the heat in Qatar but was still held in humidity that made it feel like 105 degrees (40 Celsius). Twenty-eight of the 68 women dropped out, 30 runners were given medical inspections and one was briefly hospitalized.

"It was a mistake to conduct the championship in such hot weather in Doha, especially the marathon race. As someone who has been in the sport for many years, I've found it unacceptable," former marathon world-record holder Gebrselassie told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Haile Gebrselassie. (AFP/Getty Images)
"God forbid, but people could have died running in such weather conditions," Gebrselassie said.

The stadium events for the world championships are held in the air-conditioned Khalifa International Stadium, but there's no such protection from the heat for the marathon and walks on the Doha seafront.

"The track races were OK, but I've found it difficult to accept the justification behind holding the marathon race," Gebrselassie said. "They could have made it a half-marathon event, or even scrap it from this championship taking into consideration the weather conditions."

Gebrselassie, a two-time Olympic champion in the 10,000 metres who was also president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, said athletes had trained hard but struggled with the conditions. That could hurt their morale for the future, he added.

All three of Ethiopia's runners failed to finish the women's marathon, which was won by Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya. The men's marathon is Sunday.

Marathoners were monitored by a computer that tracked the temperatures of athletes via pill thermometers. (Getty Images)

Other distance events in Doha have seen athletes fail to finish. In the men's 50-kilometre walk Sunday, 15 of 46 starters dropped out, and six out of 23 were non-finishers in the women's 50k walk.

The IAAF has defended its staging of the events, saying that the women's marathon completion rate was similar to those at world championships in Tokyo (1991) and Moscow (2013).

Next year's Olympic marathons in Tokyo are scheduled to start at 6 a.m., and runners can expect to face similar intense heat.

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