Double Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was stripped of his third consecutive European gold medal after taking off his singlet well before finishing the steeplechase final on Thursday evening to celebrate his victory.
The French star finished in 8:25.30, easily ahead of compatriot Yoann Kowal, who ran 8:26.66 and was later bumped to the gold medal position.
Before the final barrier, Mekhissi-Benabbad pulled off his singlet, clenched it in his teeth and began his celebration. He was first given a yellow card by officials, which essentially amounts to a slap on the wrist, but was disqualified an hour later when the Spanish team filed a protest, which they won and Ángel Mullera, a Spanish runner who originally finished fourth, was bumped to the bronze position.
Kowal told media he was not upset with his teammate’s early celebration and was happy with his original placing of silver, so much so that, on the track in Zurich, before any of disqualification news had broken, tired and out of breath, he proposed to his girlfriend.
Although this is his first time being disqualified for a celebration, Mekhissi-Benabbad has a history of violence on the track after races. He once got in a fistfight with Mehdi Baala, another French runner, after a 1,500m Diamond League race. He also gained notoriety after his 2012 European championships win when he knocked a gift basket out of the mascot’s hands and pushed it. The suit was being worn by a 14-year-old girl.
Although he was upset with the disqualification, the runner plans to race in the 1,500m finals on Sunday, which he qualified for on Friday morning after claiming to have been up all night upset from the steeplechase ruling.
It’s not uncommon for athletes to celebrate by taking off their shirts in other sports, most notably soccer, although rarely while the competition is still in play.