Disqualified Peachtree runner disputes elbowing claim

The agent for disqualified Peachtree Road Race runner Tadese Tola on Monday disputed claims that Tola deliberately elbowed Boaz Cheboiywo in a battle for fourth place. In addition, the agent said the Atlanta Track Club did not allow enough time for Tola to appeal.

Tola was officially disqualified Sunday for unsportsmanlike conduct for the incident, which occurred during a sprint about 30 meters from the finish. The disqualification cost Tola a $2,500 prize.

Three master-level USATF race officials at the finish line signed a written statement saying they witnessed the incident, which was confirmed by photos and video, said Atlanta Track Club spokeswoman Tracy Lott.

Hussein Makke, Tola's agent, said the incident was an issue of inefficient running mechanics and that Tola did not deliberately elbow Cheboiywo.

"When you go to full sprint after 28 minutes of running, you're fatigued, you're tired," Makke said. "Especially if you're not efficient in the mechanics, your arms spin left and right."

The USATF rule book states that "any competitor or participant jostling, running across, or obstructing another competitor or participant so as to impede his or her progress shall be liable to disqualification in that event."

Makke said Tola claimed he was trying to sprint and was not aware of anyone beside him.

"Tola is not very efficient in his mechanics, so his arms were spinning left and right," Makke said.

Tola has never been disqualified before, Makke said, and had no rivalry with Cheboiywo.

"They have raced before," Makke said. "They are friendly."

Makke also said he was not given his full allotted 24 hours to file an appeal.

Makke said he received a call informing him of the protest at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and asked to see evidence of the disputed incident. He said he received footage at 11:30 a.m. that did not work and first received working footage at 2:20 p.m.

Makke said he believed the 24-hour period would begin the minute he first had a chance to review the evidence — giving him until Sunday afternoon to file an appeal.

The USATF rules book states that appeals must be submitted in writing within 24 hours after the action by the referee has been officially announced.

Makke said he sent an appeal at 11:15 a.m. Sunday, but was too late. The Atlanta Track Club sent notice of Makke's disqualification to the media at 11 a.m.

"They made their decision by themselves before they received our statement," Makke said. "They were not patient enough and did not understand the rules enough to wait the 24-hour period."

Lott said the Track Club's communication with Makke stated that the 24-hour protest period began when the protest was filed at 9:30 a.m.