Is this the "true" Olympic spirit in the 21st century?
The Algerian 1500m medal contender Taoufik Makhloufi has been thrown out of the London Olympics for not trying in his 800m heat, the International Association of Athletics Federations have said.
Makhloufi, who won his 1500m semi-final in 3min 42.24sec, had been forced to run in the two-lap race after his team failed to withdraw him from it by Sunday's deadline, an IAAF spokeswoman said.
The 24-year-old lined up at the start of heat five at the Olympic stadium on Monday morning but was already well behind the field at the start of the back straight before stopping running completely another 100m into the race and wandering back across the infield past the pole vault area.
"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," read an IAAF statement.
Makhloufi stormed past the Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprop in a stunning finish to his 1500m heat on Sunday, marking him out as a title contender.
The IAAF spokeswoman said he could be reinstated for Tuesday's 1500m final if he could get a medical certificate from a local doctor.
The exclusion is the latest in a string of incidents at the Games where athletes have not tried to win in order to manipulate results or draws in their ultimate favour. Four pairs of women's doubles players, including the top seeds, were thrown out of the Olympics for trying to deliberately lose group stage matches to engineer easier quarter-final draws.
Mind boggling. Once upon a time, there was a sporting event known as the Olympics where amatuer athletes would come together every 4 years to compete. Prior to the start of the games, all the world's athletes would gather in the main stadium and take the following oath:
"In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."
True, the spirit if not the letter of the oath was routinely violated. But the kind of cynicism exhibited by the Algerian runner was rare. Most of us prefer the fantasy that sports offers -- a "Field of Dreams" or "The Natural" kind of uplifting emotional high that allows us to admire the human form when stretched to the limit of its physical capabilites.
I sincerely hope they send this fellow home as an example to other athletes who would so blatantly violate their oath to compete "in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."