Ethiopia backs down, lifts ban on 35 athletes for London 2012

Ethiopian athletes at the All Africa Games in Maputo 2010

Ethiopia has lifted its suspension of 35 athletes, including double Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, an athletics official said on Tuesday after imposing a ban last week in a row over a training camp.

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation imposed the measure on Thursday after Bekele, the double Olympic women champion Tirunesh Dibaba and others failed to turn up for preparations ahead of major championships this year, including the London Olympics.

"The Federation lifted the ban last night after a meeting took place between the body's officials, athletes, and their representatives," Federation spokesman Fikru Takele told Reuters.

"They apologised and explained that they missed the gathering due to injury or engagements elsewhere in the world. They have pledged to respect the body's directives from now on."

Olympic men's 5,000m and 10,000m champion, Bekele, 29, who has yet to decide if he will compete in London, told Reuters last week it would take him weeks before he returns to training and two to three months before competing again.

Ethiopia, once dominant over long-distance track events, has struggled with flagging results over the past few years with injury and age catching up with its track stars.

Over 200 athletes were selected for a national training programme and figure will later be pruned for final selection ahead of the London Olympics.

The country's athletics chiefs say they have decided to revamp their preparations after a disappointing performance in last year's world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Bekele, 29, had not raced on the track since 2009 because of injury. But after the disappointment of dropping out in Daegu, he was back to his best at the Brussels Diamond league, setting a year's best for the 10,000m.

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