French athlete loses gold medal for removing his shirt before crossing the finish line
Mahiedine Mehkissi-Benabbad stripped off his vest in celebration before crossing finish line at European Championships
France’s Mahiedine Mehkissi-Benabbad was stripped of his gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase at the European athletics championships on Thursday after peeling off his running vest before he crossed the line.
Entering the home straight with a hat-trick of titles already in the bag, he removed his French singlet, put it between his teeth and implored the crowd to acclaim him as he ran bare-chested down the home straight to complete a convincing victory in 8min 25.30sec.
But the 29-year-old appeared to contravene rule 143.8 of the International Association of Athletics Federations, stipulating that “bibs may not be obscured in any way.”
The two-time World Championship bronze medallist initially received a yellow card warning but a protest was lodged by the Spanish team and upheld, prompting a counter protest by the French that was rejected.
Yoann Kowal, Mehkissi-Benabbad’s French team-mate, was upgraded from silver to gold, with Krystian Zalewski of Poland promoted to second and Spain’s Angel Mullera to third.
“I would like to get justice for the winner’s behaviour,” said Mullera.
Mekhissi-Benabbad said: “When I took off my vest it was because of my joy of course. It was the pleasure of winning. I was so happy to defend my title. I did not know I was going to get a yellow card for that.”
The Frenchman has a reputation as the bad boy track and field, having pushed mascots after winning the European steeplechase final in Barcelona in 2010 and in Helsinki in 2012.
He was also given a suspended sentence by the French athletics federation, fined 1,500 euros and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service after getting into a fist fight with fellow Frenchman Mehdi Baala after a Diamond League 1500m race in Monaco in 2011.