Topless 3,000m winner stripped of Gold

In an echo of Steve Ovett’s famous arms aloft celebrations 200 metres from the finishing line, a joyous pre-race favourite Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad went a step further in the celebration stakes last night, when leading on the last lap of the 3,000m steeplechase at the European Athletics championships in Zurich. As the 29-year-old Frenchman rounded the bend a comfortable 10 metres ahead of the field he removed his vest, stuck it in his teeth and whipped up the fervour of the crowd as he ambled down the home straight. The crowd as expected went wild, much applause and whooping at a great performance with just the slightest hint of showmanship.

As Mekhissi-Benabbadwas completing his topless victory lap, Spanish team officialswere protesting on behalf their athlete Ángel Mullera who finished 4thabout Mekhissi-Benabbad’s celebrations. Officials promptly disqualified the winner and promoted Mullera to the bronze medal position. Mullera was suspended from the Spanish team for the London Olympics for systematic doping offences but was later reinstated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in 2013 Mullera tested positive for the banned cortisone at the Spanish Athletic championships.

Mekhissi-Benabbad won gold at the championships in 2010 and 2012, this disqualification denies him a hat trick of victories. No stranger to controversy, he was suspended for five months in 2011 after fighting with  Mehdi Baala at a Diamond League meeting in Monte Carlo after Baala appeared to headbutt his fellow Frenchman.

French athletic officials have lodged a counter-protest. No time frame has been given for a decision to be made. Once considered by the jury, their decision will be final. 

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