Francine Niyonsaba earned a spot in the final of the 5000-meter run, only to be disqualified by Tokyo Olympics officials in an apparently convenient way to bar the victim of the “Caster Semenya rule.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Niyonsaba won the silver medal in the 800 meters, losing to South Africa’s Semenya. Yet because of apparently elevated levels of natural testosterone in her body, Burundki’s Niyonsaba, like Semenya, was barred from competing in the 800-meter in Tokyo.
So Niyonsaba trained and qualified for both the 5000-meter and 10000-meter runs.
In her semifinal heat in Tokyo, she earned a spot in the final. Yet she was disqualified for stepping on a line early on in the race. Despite the error giving her absolutely zero advantage in the race, her appeal was denied.
In fact, given the small “railing” on the inside of the track, if that’s what she stepped on it was actually a disadvantage.
This at the same time the United States 4x400 mixed relay team was reinstated in their final after a seemingly much more egregious error in the semifinal: missing the baton-exchange window by a good five yards.
Double standard? Sure seems fishy. Allowing the Americans to break the rules and continue, but barring this Burundi athlete whom the Olympics have already targeted for removal, raises questions. Though there are some online claims that this was the result of an official’s error, with lines clearly painted on the track it seems odd but we’ll have to wait and see.
Of course no one is giving a full explanation, which just breeds suspicion.
The Olympics also forced Namibian runners Beatrice Masilingi and Christine Mboma out of the 400 meters.
Have you noticed a trend? Burundi. South Africa. Namibia. It’s hard to not give some credence to claims that women in Africa are being targeted.
Niyonsaba said on Twitter she isn’t stopping.
“I didn’t think it was my fault so I appealed but the decision to disqualify me has been upheld,” she wrote. “But I am not devastated. Because I know nothing can stop me. The more one tries to stop me, the stronger is my come back.”
She will run for gold in the 10000-meter next Saturday.