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Khatala cries foul

by Lesotho Times
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Leemisa Thuseho

MARATHONER, ‘Neheng Khatala, has cried foul after the Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) refused to grant her a permit to go and compete in the upcoming Soweto Marathon.

The marathon is set for 6 November 2022 in Gauteng.

Khatala was one of the local athletes looking forward to battle for honours at the prestigious marathon.

However, the FAL has reportedly told her that she was ineligible to run in commercial marathons.

Apparently, the federation has informed Khatala that she cannot run any commercial race for at least three and a half months after the Commonwealth Games. She participated in the games in Birmingham, England from July to August this year.

Sources close to the matter this week said the federation was punishing Khatala for not running a marathon during the Commonwealth Games. Instead, she competed in the 10 km race.

She allegedly opted to run in track races because she was suffering from a spinal problem.

Speaking to the Lesotho Times this week, the Olympian said she was saddened by the federation’s decision to block her from competing.

Although she had a spinal problem, she had now recovered and was now ready to compete. Even when she was in Birmingham, she was not afflicted by the injury, she said.

“I was told that I was not going to get the permit,” Khatala said this week.

“They are citing that I said I had a backbone problem, so I should rest for three months. I think they are angry and are punishing me for not running a marathon during the Commonwealth Games.

“This is sad because I only earn my living through running. Therefore, it means for three months I will not be getting any money. I am stuck.”

She said she also suspected that the FAL was unhappy that she opted to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics last year with her South African coach, Andrew Booyens. Instead, the FAL wanted its own coach.

Since the Commonwealth Games, Khatala has not competed in any commercial race.

In a July letter to Booyens, the association said it was giving Khatala a three and half months break to recover.

“Following the medical report you sent to us and having considered the health and wellbeing of the athlete, the association is adamant that the athlete needs a full recovery.

“As such, the FAL will not expect to see her competing in any commercial marathon three and half months after the Commonwealth Games. This is to give her ample time to recover,” the FAL said in the letter.

In his response, Booyens concurred with the FAL and said Khatala would start running marathons in 2023.

“Yes, I am in full agreement with you, she will only run a marathon in 2023,” Booyens said.

On his part, FAL president, Tšeliso Pheta, said as much as they received medical reports regarding Khatala’s injury, they still suspected foul play.

The matter arose after the FAL refused to grant Booyens accreditation to accompany Khatala to the World Championships in Oregon, in the United States before the Commonwealth Games.

“Initially, Khatala was set to compete in the World Championships but when we refused to give her coach accreditation, she also pulled out and said she was turning her focus to the Commonwealth Games.

“While we thought she was going to participate in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games, she started talking about being injured. We suspected foul play. However, we gave her a break to recover.

“Now she is telling us she has recovered. No. We can’t do that, we are not that stupid.  Again, it must be clear that she is not suspended but she was just given time to recover,” Pheta said.



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