LONDON – Algerian middle distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi has become the ninth Olympian tossed from the London Games for failing to try hard enough.
In a bizarre incident at Olympic Stadium on Monday morning, Makhloufi slowed to a jog after crossing the 200-meter mark of his 800-meter heat, eventually stopped, then walked across the infield and quit his event. Makhloufi had already won a semifinal heat in his primary event Sunday night – the 1,500 meters – and was considered a potential gold medalist in the finals of that event Tuesday night. He's now been dismissed from the Games for giving up in the 800.
What at first looked like a simple disqualification became a far larger issue after it appeared Makhloufi hadn't suffered any kind of injury. The International Association of Athletics Federations later said a referee determined Makhloufi purposely refused to give effort.
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"The referee considered that he had not provided a bona fide effort and decided to exclude him from participation in all further events in the competition," the IAAF statement said.
One report said Makhloufi could still be reinstated if he receives a note from a local doctor, presumably to show he had an injury.
Makhloufi had to run the 800 when his team failed to withdraw from the race by Sunday's deadline. If he didn't show for the 800, he faced being scratched from the 1,500. Running from lane five, Makhloufi initially appeared ready to race, smiling and engaging in some prerace mugging for the cameras. But knowing he had a chance to win the 1,500 meters on Tuesday, his effort in the 800 was expected to be a question from the start. What wasn't expected was Makhloufi quitting altogether, which he did after getting off to a start that was so lackadaisical that BBC broadcasters chided him almost immediately.
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"Makhloufi almost took a step backwards at the start there," a BBC commentator jabbed as the runners broke from their blocks.
During the slow start, Makhloufi fell behind the pack, jogged beyond the 200-meter mark, slowed to a walk, and then stepped off the track completely. He then cut through the infield, wandered the edge of the track near the final 100 meters of the race, and could be seen clapping for the remaining runners as they went into the homestretch. After the last runner passed a clapping Makhloufi on the final straightaway, the Algerian crossed the track and retreated into the bowels of the stadium.
Makhloufi does have a recent medal history in both the 800 and 1,500 meters. Makhloufi took bronze in the 1,500 and gold in the 800 in the All Africa track meet in Maputo, Mozambique, in September 2011. He ran particularly well in his 1,500 semifinal heat and appeared poised to capture his first Olympic medal before Monday's incident in the 800. It was a slight surprise Algeria chose to keep Makhloufi in the 800 meters after he surfaced as a potential gold medal hopeful in the 1,500.
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Now Makhloufi is the latest to be expelled from these Games in an embarrassing spate of ejections that includes eight badminton competitors who also attempted to lose their matches to draw more advantageous matchups.
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