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Gebrselassie facing political pressure in Ethiopia, his agent says

Haile Gebrselassie's agent says political interference may have played a role in the Ethiopian running superstar's shocking retirement announcement in New York, which he has since retracted.

Haile Gebrselassie’s agent Jos Hermens says politics may have played a role in the Ethiopian running superstar’s retirement announcement after he dropped out of the New York Marathon. Gebrselassie has since retracted his retirement and now plans to continue racing, saying on his Twitter account that he had made an emotional decision after the disappointment in New York.

According the Hermens, some of that emotion may have been related to political pressure in Ethiopia, adding that Gebrselassie’s phone had been tapped and that he had been the victim of a blackmail attempt. “There is a lot of pressure on him in Ethiopia,” Hermens told the New York Times. “I don’t know all the details.”

The government of Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi has faced accusations by opposition party members of intimidation, harassment and vote-rigging since elections in May. A U.S.-based opposition newspaper, the Ethiopian Review, reported that the prime minister’s wife was trying to force Gebrselassie to partner with her on the marathon world-record holder’s new Haile Resort and other real estate projects in the country. According to the Ethiopian Review‘s report, the mayor of Addis Ababa, an ally of the PM and his wife, had ordered the confiscation of land leased to Gebrselassie.

Gebrselassie’s ventures employ about 600 people, and he has mentioned plans to enter politics after his running career ends.

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