Trieste half marathon organisers backtrack on African ban after racism accusations

African marathon runners.
African marathon runners. Photo credit: Reuters

Organisers of the Trieste half marathon in northern Italy have backtracked on their decision to exclude African athletes from the race, after claims of racism.

Race organiser Fabio Carini had initially defended the ban for the May 5 event, saying it was to highlight an exploitative "trade" in African athletes.

But the controversial decision was criticised as racist, which led Carini to apologise for offending the African community.

"After attracting a great deal of attention to a fundamental ethical subject, we will invite African athletes, contrary to what was announced," said Carini.

"I acknowledge that we should have raised the issue differently and with a different timing, and that's what we will do. I regret the reactions to this decision and apologise to those people who have felt offended."

Both the male and female races were won by runners from the African nation of Burundi in 2018.

The Italian Federation of Athletics has opened an investigation into the matter "to examine the facts and possible violations of its standards and regulations committed by affiliated clubs or licensees".

The half marathon is the culmination of the four-day Trieste Running Festival, which begins on Thursday.

Italian sport has been wracked with a series of racist incidents in recent months, with various spurts of racial abuse by football fans during Serie A matches.

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