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Trieste marathon excludes African runners, then backtracks amid outcry

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By Sandrine Amiel  with AFP, ANSA
FILE PHOTO/Paris Marathon - Paris, France - April 14, 2019
FILE PHOTO/Paris Marathon - Paris, France - April 14, 2019   -   Copyright  FILE PHOTO/ REUTERS/Regis Duvignau   -  

Trieste half marathon organisers backtracked on their controversial decision to close the May 5 race to African athletes amid accusations of racism, ANSA news agency reported on Saturday evening (27 April).

Race manager Fabio Carini had told La Repubblica newspaper that the move to allow European entries only was to make a stand against the exploitation of African runners.

"This year we have decided only to take European athletes to make the point that measures must be taken to regulate what is currently a trade in high-value African athletes, who are purely and simply exploited, which is something we can no longer accept."

The decision sparked outrage in Italy and beyond.

Italian member of the European Parliament, Isabella de Monte was among the first politicians to react on Saturday. She called the decision "serious and unworthy".

"We are preventing professionals from taking part in a race because they come from Africa...The situation is in the process of slipping away from us and we are returning to the dark days," the MEP for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said.

She added: "The only way to react to this type of decision is outrage."

The Italian Federation of Athletism said on Saturday it had opened an investigation into the case.

Junior Sports Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, from the far right League party, also said he would launch an inquiry.

Vice Prime Minister Luigi di Maio said that while it was fair to combat the exploitation of African athletes, "this wasn't the right way to do it."

Many citizens took to Twitter to express their indignation and demand that corporate sponsors --including travel agency Booking and Generali bank -- withdraw their support to the event.

The Trieste half-marathon controversy comes amid a series of racist incidents in Italian sports.

On Wednesday (24 April), Lazio fans racially abused two AC Milan players in the Italian Cup semi-final.

Earlier this month, Juventus' Moise Kean was racially abused in a game at Cagliari.