Distance running great Haile Gebrselassie has been elected president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, as the country grapples with doping issues and poor results on the track.
The two-time Olympic champion won Saturday night’s election after saying he believed that Ethiopian athletics was “not on the right track.”
Gebrselassie is Ethiopia’s greatest ever runner, winning two Olympic and four world titles in a career that spanned over 20 years and also included a series of major marathon victories and world records in distances from 5,000 meters up to the marathon.
In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the election, Gebrselassie also said Ethiopian athletics “has been stained with doping allegations so I want to clear that up and do things right.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency has urged Ethiopia to strengthen its anti-doping program. Six Ethiopian athletes were suspended this year on suspicions of doping.
Ethiopia, which alongside neighbour Kenya has for many years dominated distance running, had its credibility questioned earlier this year when six of its athletes came under investigation for doping.
It subsequently announced that it would carry out tests on up to 200 athletes.
The east African nation is also struggling with a slump in form and won a single gold medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, its poorest haul since 1992.
Amid discontent over mismanagement, Ethiopia’s track body held a closed-door assembly and elected Gebrselassie as its chief late on Saturday.
“I feel so honoured to be elected president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation! Will work on a great future for Ethiopian athletics,” Gebrselassie said on his Twitter account.
In August, Gebrselassie said the whole athletics set-up “needed a revamp”.
Gebrselassie, considered one of the sport’s greatest distance athletes, gave up competitive running in March last year.
Nearly unbeatable on the track in his prime, he won the first of eight indoor and outdoor world championship gold medals at Stuttgart in 1993 and went on to hold world records from the 5,000 meters to the marathon.
He won Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters in 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney.
Gebrselassie has since focussed on business interests and is involved in real estate projects, owns four hotels, a coffee plantation and is an automobile distributor.