Italian Marathon Branded 'Racist' After Banning African Competitors

The Trieste Running Fesitval in Italy has backflipped on its ban of African competitors from running in its half-marathon after outcry.

The half-marathon in Trieste, which will take place on May 5, was slammed as racist after announcing it was only open to European competitors.

Event organiser Fabio Carini defended the decision by claiming it was to avoid the "exploitation" of African competitors.

"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," he told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"Organisers barred only the top runners, the African professionals, from taking part to denounce unequal treatment.

"African athletes are not paid according to their real value."

Runners compete in the Paris Marathon. Image: Getty Images

An investigation by the Italian Athletics Federation (FIDAL) was opened to determine if its rules and regulations had been broken.

"With reference to the press reports and subsequent controversies concerning the Trieste Half Marathon, the Italian Athletics Federation informs that the federal prosecutor immediately opened an investigation to ascertain the facts and possible violations of its own rules and regulations committed by companies affiliated or FIDAL members," FIDAL said in a statement.

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio described the decision as "folly" and called out event organisers for making the issue more serious.

"It is right to fight against the exploitation of African runners... but it is not done like this," he said.

"The issue is not addressed by excluding them from the race. In fact, the issue becomes more serious."

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Italian politician Isabella De Monte slammed the event's reason as a "shameless excuse" for discrimination.

"At the #Trieste Running Festival excluding African professional athletes! Sport becomes discrimination and disloyalty, with the approval of the major institutions, hidden behind the ignoble, shameless excuse of exploitation by managers," she tweeted.

However, event organisers have backflipped on their decision, and will now allow African runners to take part.

But still running the line of exploitation, Carini claimed the original decision highlighted the "hypocrisy" that is ignored by the wider industry.

"I recognise that we should have raised the problem in different times and ways, and that is what we will do," he said.

"I am sorry for the reactions that this choice has raised, I apologise to those who have honestly felt offended but I certainly do not agree with the political exploitation that are been done."

Racism in Italian sport is an ongoing problem, with a number of high-profile incidences in football in recent months.

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On Wednesday night, Lazio fans chanted racist slogans at AC Milan's Tiemoue Bakayoko.

"This banana is for Bakayoko" was heard around the stadium and inflatable bananas were spotted.

Weeks earlier, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci was slammed after claiming teammate Moise Kean was partly to blame for racism during a match against Calgiari.

“Kean knows that when he scores a goal, he has to focus on celebrating with his team-mates,” Bonucci told Sky Italia.

“I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have done that and the Curva (Calgiari supporters) should not have reacted that way."

Bonucci has since claimed his comments were "misunderstood".